Relief Funds and New Roles for Transit
Quick action and strong regional partnerships helped SACOG expedite $112 million to transit agencies
April 30, 2020: Transit agencies have been on the frontlines of the Covid-19 crisis and as we’ve reported, their budgets have been battered.
But they have also adapted quickly and in many cases, taken on new roles as food distributors, wellness checkers, Census workers, and even WiFi providers. ACC Transportation Services, Paratransit, El Dorado Transit, and YoloBus have been delivering meals and groceries, as well as making wellness check calls to seniors. Paratransit staff have been working with the City of Sacramento to call people to remind them to fill out their census and SacRT has been working with partners to equip 8-10 40 foot buses with WiFi capabilities and extenders to make them into mobile hotspots to support Governor Newsom’s telehealth, telework, and distance education guidance.
To take on some of these new roles with their ridership and revenues slashed, transit agencies needed to be able to access Federal relief funds authorized under the CARES Act. This meant they had to sit around a (virtual) table and with the help of SACOG’s transit team, broker an agreement on how to distribute those funds.
SACOG’s Director of Transportation, Matt Carpenter, said it took just 10 days from when the CARES Act was signed to get to agreement and he was proud of the way the region’s transit agencies cooperated. The key conditions of the agreement, which was passed by the SACOG board on April 16, were that the eight agencies had to continue to support Covid-19 emergency transportation services in their service district through at least the end of the Governor of California’s executive orders for the crisis, and that the programming of up to $4,000,000 for Paratransit, Inc. was conditional on the agency securing letter confirmations of funding support from the other transit agencies. The funds for Paratransit were to offset their revenue declines and for them to assist other transit agencies and community-based transportation providers in their response to the COVID-19 health crisis.
Carpenter said the smooth process was largely the result of a lot of work done seven years ago to get a Memorandum of Understanding for transit funding approved.