Were State DOTs Really Left Out of the “CV3” Bill?

The American Public Transportation Association requested $16 billion in direct aid for transit agencies as part of the third coronavirus response package and wound up receiving $25 billion.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials requested “$16.7 billion in federal funding support to state DOTs through the Federal-aid Highway formula program at 100 percent federal share” to make up for “up to a ten percent decline in highway-related revenues for FY 2020 and FY 2021” – but the bill contains zero such funding.

However, title V of Division A of the bill provides $150 billion in funding “for making payments to States, Tribal governments, and units of local government” – and, since state DOTs are part of state governments, they are eligible to receive some of this money at state government discretion.

After taking $11 billion off the top ($8 billion for Indian tribes and $3 billion for the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Marianas), the remaining $139 billion will be allocated to the 50 states. Each state will receive the greater of “the amount equal to the relative population proportion amount determined for the State” as a percentage of all 50 states, or a guaranteed minimum state share of $1.125 billion.

However, city or county governments can apply to take money out of their state’s share directly. The bill provides that:

“If a unit of local government of a State submits the certification [signed by the Chief Executive for the unit of local government that the local government’s proposed uses of the funds are consistent with this section] for purposes of receiving a direct payment from the Secretary under the authority of this paragraph, the Secretary shall reduce the amount determined for that State by the relative unit of local government population proportion amount [the city/county’s share of total population of the state times 45 percent of the total state allotment] and pay such amount directly to such unit of local government.”

The only restriction on the use of funds appears to be a requirement that the money be used to cover “only those costs of the State, Tribal government, or unit of local government that—

  1. “are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19);
  2. “were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of the date of enactment of this section for the State or government; and
  3. “were incurred during the period that begins 11 on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020.”

The pending third coronavirus response bill will not be the last. Once Congress reconvenes in late April, Speaker Pelosi has promised that there will be rounds four and five. And infrastructure will almost certainly be addressed in one of those bills.

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