September 29, 2020

Chair DeFazio Applauds Inclusion of T&I Provisions, Including Payroll Support Program Extension, in House Democrats’ Latest COVID-19 Relief Package

Washington, DC – Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) applauded the House Democrats’ newly-released COVID-19 relief package for including multiple provisions offered by the Committee, including critical relief for aviation workers. The relief package also includes much-needed aid to sustain public transit, Amtrak, and airports, all of which have seen passenger traffic drop precipitously amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Transportation-related provisions in the package include:

  • Extending the successful Payroll Support Program, which was created in the CARES Act, to prevent layoffs of airline industry workers through March 31, 2021.
  • Providing $32 billion for transit emergency relief, helping with annual operating expenses as well as projects that receive funding under the Capital Investment Grants program and rural and paratransit providers.
  • Providing $2.4 billion to support Amtrak’s ability to operate passenger rail service, protect Amtrak workers from furloughs, and prevent service reductions on long-distance routes. 
  • Providing $13.5 billion for airports, a portion of which is dedicated to assisting restaurants and retailers located at airports.
  • Adjusting the Federal share of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance for COVID-19-related emergencies and major disasters to 100 percent, and adjusting the floor for the Federal share of FEMA assistance from 75 percent to not less than 90 percent for any emergencies and major disasters, such as wildfires and hurricanes, declared this year under the Stafford Act.
  • Requiring the Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop a national aviation preparedness plan for communicable disease outbreaks, as recommended by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2015.
  • Helping ensure frontline workers in the passenger and freight transportation sectors receive Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and making sure stations, facilities, and equipment are cleaned in according with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
  • Taking action to ensure railroad workers have access to the same enhanced unemployment benefits as other workers.

“More than six months into this public health crisis, the Trump administration has done far too little to slow the spread of this insidious virus, and as a result, workers, families, and business owners across this country are suffering the consequences. Congress must step up with measures that help blunt the worst of this pandemic’s effects, from making sure frontline workers have PPE, to ensuring that even more skilled workers aren’t forced into the unemployment lines,” Chair DeFazio said. “These are just a few of the many steps we must take to keep our country afloat during this crisis. I urge every member of Congress to support this comprehensive rescue package and put pressure on the Trump administration to do what’s necessary to help workers and families get through this public health crisis.”

A full list of the Committee’s provisions in the package is below:

Extends the successful Payroll Support Program, which was created in the CARES Act, to prevent layoffs of airline industry workers. This Title authorizes grants totaling $25 billion to passenger airlines, $3 billion to airline contractors, and $300 million to cargo airlines, to be used for the sole purpose of paying workers and keeping them employed. Additionally, the Title extends the CARES Act’s strong conditions on these grants, including a prohibition on any involuntary furloughs of workers through March 31, 2021. It also requires contractors that laid off workers in the spring to make good-faith efforts to rehire them. 

Also requires the Department of Transportation, in coordination with heads of other Federal departments and agencies, to develop a national aviation preparedness plan for communicable disease outbreaks, as the Government Accountability Office recommended in 2015, to ensure that Federal, State, and local governments, airports, airlines, and other aviation industry and labor stakeholders are better prepared for a future public health crisis.

Adjusts the Federal share of FEMA assistance for COVID-19-related emergencies and major disasters to 100 percent. Adjusts the floor for the Federal share of FEMA assistance from 75 percent to not less than 90 percent for any emergencies and major disasters declared pursuant to the Stafford Act in 2020. 

Clarifies assistance. Provides assistance for activities, costs, and purchases of States, local, tribal, or territorial governments, including activities eligible under the Stafford Act but not limited to: backfill costs for first responders, increased operating costs for essential government services, costs of providing public guidance and information, costs for establishing virtual services and operating remote test sites, training provided in anticipation of, or response to, the COVID-19 pandemic, personal protective equipment for first responders, public health, public schools and public transportation, and medical supplies, non-congregate sheltering, food preparation and delivery to impacted communities, as well as limited funeral benefits. Sec. 203. Hazard Mitigation Approval. Allows assistance absent a determination by the President or FEMA Administrator for States, tribes, and territories that have included requests for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program as part of their COVID-19 major disaster requests. 

Establishes requirements for the provision of personal protective equipment for certain passenger and freight transportation employees. Ensures that stations, facilities, and equipment are cleaned and disinfected in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. Establishes standards for the use of face masks and protective coverings by passengers and certain employees. Creates reporting requirements in the event that a passenger or freight transportation employer is unable to procure the required personal protective equipment.  Sec. 302. Property Disposition for Affordable Housing. Allows a grantee to transfer property no longer needed to a local government authority, non-profit, or other third party for the purpose of transit-oriented development and releases the Federal interest in that asset. Requires that at least 40 percent of the housing units in such a project be offered as affordable housing. 

Treatment of Payments from the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Account. Eliminates the sequester that indiscriminately reduces railroad unemployment and sickness benefits provided under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act.  

Clarification of Oversight and Implementation of Relief for Workers Affected by Coronavirus Act. Provides a technical correction to exclude the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) from the Department of Labor Inspector General (IG) oversight authority, as the RRB has its own IG office that conducts oversight. 

Extension of Waiver of the 7-Day Waiting Period for Benefits Under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act. The CARES Act waived the waiting period for unemployment and sickness benefits under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act. This provision extends that waiver from December 31, 2020, to January 31, 2021. 

Extended Unemployment Benefits Under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act. Provides 13-weeks of additional extended unemployment benefits for workers qualifying for benefit year 2020 under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act. These weeks of additional extended unemployment benefits end January 31, 2021. The $1,200 recovery benefit is payable during these additional weeks. 

Additional Enhanced Benefits Under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act. Extends to January 31, 2021, the $1,200/registration period enhanced recovery benefit for workers eligible under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA). The benefit is also available during weeks of normal benefits under the RUIA for registration periods occurring after January 31, 2021, but not later than March 31, 2021. 

Grants the Economic Development Administration (EDA) disaster hiring authority, which it currently does not have. 

Graduation Requirements for the United States Merchant Marine Academy and State Maritime Academies. Authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to waive maritime license examination requirements through December 31, 2021, to allow cadets to graduate from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and State maritime academies.  

Regulation of Anchorage and Movement of Vessels During National Emergency. Expands the Coast Guard’s authority under 46 USC 70051 (formerly part of the Magnuson Act under 50 USC 191) to go beyond strict war/national security type incidents to also include public health emergencies.  

 

MORE INFORMATION:

The text of the revised version of The Heroes Act is here. A section-by-section summary is here

 

 

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Contact: Andrew Postal