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Report: Coronavirus relief package to address state DOTs

By |  December 21, 2020
Photo: P&Q Staff

Congress is expected to take up the latest coronavirus relief package ahead of Christmas. Photo: P&Q Staff

Congressional leaders came to terms on a $900 billion coronavirus relief package late Sunday, with part of the relief money expected to be directed to state Departments of Transportation (DOT), according to the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA).

According to NSSGA, the relief package includes $10 billion for state DOTs to recoup funds lost due to the pandemic’s impact on gas tax revenues. NSSGA expects the House to take up the package Monday, with the Senate following suit ahead of Christmas.

“The dollars we’ve secured in this pandemic package for state DOT relief is real money going towards previously scheduled public works projects and infrastructure improvements,” says Michele Stanley, vice president of government and regulatory affairs at NSSGA. “This means our members can continue to grow their local, regional and our national economy as infrastructure investment will continue America’s economic rebound.”

Equipment dealers should also reap the benefits of this latest relief package, says the head of the Associated Equipment Distributors (AED).

“States have seen significant declines in revenue due to the pandemic, and money specifically targeted to state Departments of Transportation will go directly to work that will keep AED member customers busy as we start the next construction season,” says Brian McGuire, president and CEO of AED. “While a significant victory now, our efforts are just beginning. Congress must build upon the bipartisanship exhibited during the past week to pass infrastructure legislation early in 2021 that will spur economic growth and job creation for years to come.”

The head of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) was also quick to praise the legislative compromise, as AGC had lobbied for another round of congressional action for months.

“The new coronavirus recovery measure announced today should provide some needed relief for a construction industry that is coping with project cancellations and job losses in most parts of the country, says Stephen Sandherr, CEO of AGC.

“Most important, the measure reaffirms the original congressional intent that employers that used Paycheck Protection Program loans to save jobs will not be forced to pay more taxes next year as a result,” Sandherr adds. “Given that demand for many types of commercial construction projects is likely to remain soft in 2021, the administration’s plan to tax firms for their forgiven loan amount would have cost many construction jobs. Instead, the new recovery measure will preserve many of the original benefits of the Paycheck Protection Program, something our association has worked aggressively to ensure.

Getting to this point

The American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO), in a July 2020 letter, wrote congressional leaders asking for an infusion of $37 billion for the state DOTs they represent because of pandemic-induced losses. AASHTO originally asked congressional leaders for nearly $50 billion back in April 2020, but the organization revised its request after updated data became available detailing that state transportation losses were expected to be $37 billion through fiscal year 2024 – with an estimated $16 billion in losses in fiscal year 2020.

With so many people, businesses, and industries impacted by the pandemic, AASHTO faced heavy competition to secure its full request for state DOTs. Among the other components of this latest relief bill are $600 direct payments to qualified Americans, rental assistance dollars, accelerants for vaccine distribution, and support for small businesses.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) issued remarks about the relief funding in a joint written statement Sunday.

“The emergency relief in this agreement, the second largest in history only to the CARES Act, is an important first step that Democrats look forward to building on under the new Biden-Harris administration to meet the remaining needs of the American people during this historic health and economic crisis,” Pelosi and Schumer write.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) also issued joint written remarks about a relief package in the days ahead of this latest relief package.

“Congress has two critical items to tackle this week: funding the government and delivering crucial COVID relief to families, workers and businesses across the country,” McConnell and McCarthy write. “It is time for Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and House to find consensus on COVID relief before the holidays. We hope our Democrat counterparts share our sense of urgency.”

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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