New York Daily News
N.Y., N.J. ask feds to help split bug aid
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut officials can’t play nice in talks over how to divide up federal COVID mass transit relief money — so they’re asking the feds to referee.
Negotiations between the three states over how to split $14.2 billion in COVID relief funds for mass transit have hit a stalemate, and a looming deadline could force the states to leave on the table part of separate $2.2 billion pot of federal money.
The argument revolves around the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act passed by Congress in December and the American Rescue Plan passed in March, which allocated $14.2 billion for transit systems that link the three states.
Unlike previous transit funding packages, the COVID relief was allocated to regions based on the operating costs of the agencies within them.
But New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Aug. 12 wrote a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg arguing the tristate region should not dole out the money based on operating costs, and instead distribute it by the feds’ usual funding formula, which allocates money according to construction and maintenance costs.
“Nowhere in the language or the congressional intent of the federal COVID relief bills did Congress mandate changes to the way transit agencies split federal formula dollars amongst themselves,” Murphy’s letter said.
Murphy’s plan would cut $700 million from the MTA’s expected allocation.
MTA Acting Chairman Janno Lieber — who wrote his own Aug. 27 letter to Buttigieg rebutting Murphy’s — said Wednesday New Jersey’s argument “makes no sense.”
“The law that Congress passed for COVID relief was like a FEMA bill,” Lieber said during a news conference on Wednesday. “It said we want the money to be used to replace the money the transit systems lost because of COVID.”
Lieber said New York’s proposal would send relief to the MTA equivalent to 72% of its $17.5 billion annual operating budget, while giving New Jersey enough to cover 75% of NJ Transit’s $2.6 billion annual operating budget.
“Under New Jersey’s proposal, New Jersey would get 93% ... while New York would get only 68%,” Lieber said.
The two sides must come to an agreement and determine how to split the money before Nov. 8 or else be ineligible to apply for a $2.2 billion national pot of money allocated for transit agencies through the American Rescue Plan.
That deadline is six days after Murphy faces reelection.
Lieber and Murphy both requested the Federal Transit Administration, which distributes the relief funds, to help mediate the negotiations.
The MTA wants the FTA “just to help facilitate a negotiation because we’re having trouble getting everyone to the table,” Lieber said.
FTA representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.