By Lauren Schapker, vice president of legislative affairs, ARTBA  

President-elect Joe Biden Jan. 14 announced his American Rescue Plan to provide COVID-19 relief by injecting $1.9 trillion into the economy.  The plan comes just weeks after the last COVID-19 relief measure was signed into law and represents the incoming administration’s first foray into policy-making.   

The plan includes several provisions of interest to ARTBA members as they continue to weather the pandemic: 

  • $350 billion in aid to state and local governments; 
  • $20 billion for public transportation programs; 
  • $15 billion for a new small business grant program; 
  • $35 billion for state and local small business lending programs; and
  • Reinstatement of emergency paid sick, and family and medical leave. 

State and local governments would be permitted to use the $350 billion for a range of purposes, including maintaining payroll for essential workers, which could benefit state departments of transportation.  The bulk of the $1.9 trillion plan would fund vaccine deployment, expanded unemployment insurance, resources for schools, and direct payments to individuals and families. 

The proposal is part one of the incoming administration’s two-part rescue and recovery effort to boost the economy.  Biden has said the second part will include a major infrastructure investment plan. It will be detailed during Biden’s first appearance before a Joint Session of Congress, expected in February.   

Congress just passed, and President Donald Trump signed into law, a $900 billion COVID relief package in late December that complicates the path forward for Biden’s proposals. In addition, the new plan includes contentious issues that Congress was not able to agree upon last year, including aid to state and local governments, expanded unemployment benefits, and increased direct payments to individuals and families.

ARTBA will continue to press Congress and the Biden administration to pass an infrastructure package that includes a long-term surface transportation bill.