Amtrak receives $1.69 billion COVID-19 relief grant

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An Amtrak train waits at a platform prior to its departure at Union Station November 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (WTAJ) — The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is providing more than $1.69 billion to the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) to aid in COVID-19 relief efforts under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

“This new assistance for Amtrak will get employees back to work and restore service on routes across the country, at a time when this help is urgently needed,” in a press release, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said.

After experiencing its best ridership year in 2019, Amtrak faced a drastic decline in revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing the corporation to furlough 2,000 employees and reduce rail service.

“The timing of this funding is essential to helping ensure that Amtrak is able to quickly return to service supporting the Nation’s transportation needs and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” in a press release, the FRA Acting Administrator Amit Bose said.

In this plan, the FRA will grant $969,388,160 for the Northeast Corridor (NEC) and $728,611,840 for the National Network of state-supported and long-distance passenger routes.

As per the grant agreement, the FRA requires the railroad company to report on the number of furloughed employees and provide a schedule for an expected return. Amtrak has already begun recalling furloughed employees and plans to restore long-distance rail service beginning in late May of 2021.

“For our part, we are committed to transparency and are requiring enhanced reporting from Amtrak to show how funding from the American Rescue Plan is being efficiently and effectively used to respond to present challenges,” Bose said.

This grant comes just in time for the virtual celebration on April 30 to mark the 50th Anniversary of Amtrak on May 1. President Joe Biden will be a guest speaker at the event along with Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn, President Stephen Gardner and Board Chair Tony Coscia.

The event will be livestreamed starting at 1:30 p.m.

To celebrate Amtrak’s 50th Anniversary, the company will be offering 50% off coach class tickets for routes all across the country from April 28 to May 5.

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