Durbin Discusses COVID-19 Relief Bill With Illinois Transportation Leaders

SPRINGFIELD – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic with a group of transportation leaders from across Illinois and heard how the pandemic is continuing to affect local transportation needs and services. On a call with leaders from Illinois transportation departments, airports, railroads, and other mass transit systems, Durbin discussed how provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act can help provide relief funding for transportation agencies across Illinois. 

“The $2 trillion relief bill passed by Congress provides funding for our nation’s transportation agencies, including the many agencies throughout Illinois.  This funding will help Illinois’ airports, railroads, mass transit, and other public transportation agencies provide for their employees and keep services operational in the midst of this pandemic.  The challenges we face are unlike anything we’ve seen in history, and I will continue to find ways to support our local transportation agencies as they provide essential services in Illinois.”

The CARES Act includes $25 billion in Federal Transit Administration (FTA) formula funding, which will allow transit agencies to continue operations ensuring transportation access to jobs, medical treatment, food, and other essential services remain available during the COVID-19 response. Transit agencies in Illinois are being severely impacted by a significant reduction in fare box revenue and dedicated sales taxes.  Illinois is estimated to receive $1.6 billion in federal funding from the CARES Act.

The CARES Act includes $10 billion in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants to help airport operators meet ongoing needs and manage current construction projects as operating expenses increase and revenues plummet as a result of the significant drop in air travel.  Latest TSA throughput numbers from Airlines 4 America continue to show a 92 percent drop from last year in the number of people traveling by air.  Flights at Midway Airport are down 53 percent and 50 percent at O’Hare International Airport. 

The CARES Act includes $1 billion in funding for Amtrak including $239 million for state supported routes that will cover Illinois’ Amtrak costs.  Of the $1 billion total, $526 million is for the National Network, which includes Illinois’ routes.  Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Amtrak has experienced a 50 percent drop in bookings and a 300 percent increase in cancellations. 

The CARES Act includes a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, which provides $150 billion in direct federal grant funding to states, local governments, and tribes to help fund their COVID-19 responses and free up state and local funding for essential services and payroll.  Illinois will receive an estimated $5 billion in direct federal funding under the program.