SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Transit Authority is receiving a big injection of federal funding to ease the burdens caused by COVID-19.
Over $167 million is being carved out of the American Rescue Plan, which was passed by congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden last year.
“It's a huge help to us. It has helped stabilize us financially,” said Carlton Christensen, the chairperson of the UTA Board of Trustees.
The Federal Transit Administration is distributing the funds.
“This funding from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan will help keep transit service running, protect transit employees from layoffs, and ensure people can get where they need to go while lowering emissions,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg
UTA will use the money to offset the loss of revenue from decreased ridership caused by people working from home and avoiding public transportation to minimize exposure to the virus.
“We are still only two-thirds of what our normal ridership would be. So, our farebox revenue has not returned,” Christensen said.
The transit authority managed to avoid layoffs, while catching up on maintenance and adding improved cleaning procedures during the pandemic.
UTA plans on maintaining those increased health and safety protocols.
As Utah starts to put pandemic issues in its rear view mirror, UTA says the federal funds will allow it to focus on responding to the state’s growth as ridership returns to, and exceeds levels seen before March 2020 when the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Utah.
“If we had not received these funds, we’d be thinking more about how we recover as an organization and it would have delayed our response to the future by a number of years,” Christensen said. “This allows us to continue to move forward with the confidence we hoped and anticipated.”