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AASHTO Releases COVID Relief Estimates for DOTs

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

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Based on Highway Infrastructure Programs in the 2021 Division M of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials have recently released an estimate of apportionment for state DOTs.

According to AASHTO, the Federal Highway Administration must apportion the funds for state DOTs within 30 days of the bill’s enactment—which was signed into law by former President Donald J. Trump on Dec. 27, 2020—in addition to each state’s share of obligation limitations within the recently extended FAST Act.

USDOT & COVID-19

A month after the coronavirus pandemic began affecting the United States in March 2020, the United States Department of Transportation announced $25 billion in federal funding allocations for the nation’s transportation systems and $1 billion in funding for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both allocations were made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which was signed by President Donald J. Trump on March 27.

The announcement for funding arrives after the AASHTO inked a letter to Congressional leaders in March, seeking support for the creation of a fiscal “backstop” for the transportation sector as a result of the economic impact experienced from COVID-19.

In the letter, AASHTO urged Congress to grant an immediate and temporary waiver for federal truck weight restrictions, giving states maximum flexibility and discretion to manage interstate transportation of emergency supplies in combatting against the virus.

vlvart / Getty Images

Based on Highway Infrastructure Programs in the 2021 Division M of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials have recently released an estimate of apportionment for state DOTs.

Additionally, officials requested $16.7 billion in supplemental federal transportation funding to backstop expected state revenue shortfalls and asked that transportation investments “double down” so that highway and transit investment backlog can be reduced, and long-term economic recovery could be enabled.

That same month, Acting Inspector General Mitchell L. Behm issued a memorandum to the Secretary on supporting efforts made by the United States Department of Transportation that aim to meet provisions outlined in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

According to the memorandum, the Office of Inspector General intends to provide an initial product in the coming months which will crosscut oversight risks and suggestions for mitigation regarding the Department’s efforts.

The product plans to leverage key insight for bolstering the Department’s oversight of CARES Act grantees and contractors.

Additionally, Behm points out that because of the volume and speed required to make CARES Act funds available to the public, transactions are at higher risk for fraud, waste, and abuse. To mediate these possible threats, the USDOT and OIG planned to work together and look for any early indicators that might suggest potential misuse.

However, regardless of funding and mitigation efforts, in August it was announced by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association that transportation revenue and construction programs from states and local governments had $9.6 billion worth of projects that were delayed or canceled.

In a 359-53 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 5,593-page, $900 billion COVID-19 relief package, while the Senate passed the legislation in a 92-6 vote on Dec. 21, 2020. Trump signed the legislation just days later and allows for states, territories and tribes to use the available funds for costs associated with maintenance, operations, personnel and coverage for revenue losses.

In addition to the $10 billion allotted for highway infrastructure programs, the legislation also offers $284 billion for first and second PPP loans to support small businesses, expanded PPP eligibility for local newspapers, television, and radio broadcasters and $15 billion for movie theaters and live venues.

The package also includes authorization of the Water Resources Development Act, which supports water-related infrastructure such as ports, harbors, and inland waterways.

An analysis by AASHTO’s policy team further indicates that the relief package will be able to be use by state DOTs to fund Surface Transportation Block Grant-eligible projects as well as for preventive maintenance, routine maintenance, operations, and personnel—including employee and contractor salaries—along with debt service payments, availability payments, and coverage for other revenue losses.

These relief funds could also be transferred to public tolling and ferry agencies for costs related to operations, personnel, salaries, contractors, debt service payments, availability payments and coverage for other revenue losses, and are not subject to existing federal restrictions on tolling revenues.

In terms of FY 2021 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development funding approved as part of this broad fiscal package, AASHTO reports that some $46.365 billion has been provided for Federal-aid Highways obligation limitation in addition to nearly $2 billion in general fund supplement to help support highway bridge rehabilitation programs.

DOT Estimates

As stated in the COVID-19 relief package, state DOTs are slated to receive funds totaling $9.8 billion in emergency aid.

“Since the early response to the pandemic, state DOTs have faced severe losses in state transportation revenues as vehicle travel declined,” Jim Tymon, Executive Director of AASHTO, said in a statement. “This COVID relief bill enables state DOTs to stay on track and support the efficient movement of critical goods and services as they maintain their transportation systems.”

The top ten states’ funding amounts and percentage shares are as follows:

  • California $918,466,948 (9.33%);
  • Texas $914,423,725 (9.29%);
  • Florida $473,166,962 (4.81%);
  • New York $419,932,789 (2.27%);
  • Pennsylvania $410,118,478 (4.17%);
  • Illinois $355,482,847 (3.61%);
  • Ohio $335,097,292 (3.41%);
  • Georgia $322,679,026 (3.28%);
  • Michigan $263,212,651 (2.67%); and
  • North Carolina $260,622,083 (2.65%).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Washington D.C., is expected to receive the least about of funding ($39,885,144), alongside New Hampshire ($41,299,573) and Hawaii ($42,276,602). A full list of state DOTs and its estimated funding can be viewed, here.

Of the remaining funds for transportation, $115 million will go to the Tribal Transportation Program, $36 million to the Puerto Rico Highway Program and $9 million to the Territorial Highway Program.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Bridges; COVID-19; Department of Transportation (DOT); Funding; Government; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Roads/Highways

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