MIPRC asks Congress to fully fund Amtrak between COVID-19 relief and/or FY 2021 appropriations

December 16, 2020

As Congress closes in on a deal for new COVID-19 relief legislation and FY 2021 appropriations, MIPRC is asking Midwestern members to ensure Amtrak gets enough funding between relief and 2021 appropriations to restore daily long-distance service and provide crucial funding for state-supported Amtrak services.

Amtrak cut back all its long-distance service to three times a week starting Oct 1 due to COVID-related drops in ridership.

In a Dec. 15 letter emailed to Midwestern members, MIPRC noted that in addition to adversely affecting the regional mobility of elderly and rural citizens who rely on the service, the cuts meant substantial losses to local communities already suffering economic losses due to the pandemic. Local communities within our Midwestern states could lose over $573 million due to these service cuts, according to estimates  from the Rail Passengers Association.

Additionally, the letter points out that state-supported Amtrak services have experienced revenue reductions of 80 percent to 90 percent, and funding assistance will be needed for them to continue service and restore suspended frequencies.

To restore daily long-distance service and provide financial assistance to states that pay for their service, Amtrak needs a total of $4.9 billion.

Both the House and Senate proposed approximately $2 Billion for FY21 appropriations, and the proposed $908 billion bi-partisan COVID relief bill had $1 billion slated for Amtrak.

In asking Congress to provide Amtrak with the remaining $1.9 billion, MIPRC’s letter said the multi-state compact organization was “pleased to see the $15 billion for mass transit and $8 billion for buses included in the COVID relief bill, but are concerned that Amtrak is only slated to receive $1 billion given the funding need.

“Intercity passenger rail services will be an important component of the overall transportation system’s role in supporting the economic recovery in the Midwest,” the letter said.