Metro service cuts, layoffs spared by COVID-19 relief funds

Federal COVID-19 relief funding is expected to stave off Metro’s service cuts and layoffs through the end of its current fiscal year.

The approximate $610 million in aid was revealed by the regional transit system Friday night, though it still needs to receive board approval next week. Metro’s fiscal year ends June 30.

“Thanks to the leadership of the regional Congressional delegation and Senator Warner, we will be able to keep transit employees working, providing essential service to customers in the national capital region through June 30th,” Metro Board of Directors Chair Paul C. Smedberg said.

While the relief funding will help lessen the blow from coronavirus-related drops in revenue for FY22, set to start on July 1, Smedberg said Metro will “need additional federal relief to avoid service reductions next fiscal year as the region stabilizes.”

The new budget will be revised at its Finance Committee on Jan. 14, according to the release, where Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld will discuss the next fiscal year’s budget.

He expressed optimism about keeping the service fully intact for the first half of the year, but warned of “tough choices still ahead.”

“We are far from out of the woods, without sufficient revenue to cover all of next fiscal year,” Wiedefeld said. “While the choices may not be quite as severe, there is still enormous financial pressure on our funding jurisdictions, and ridership and revenue is likely to return very gradually.”

Metro originally proposed a operating budget with a nearly $500 million deficit in December. It including closing Metrorail at 9 p.m., ending weekend service, closing 19 rail stations and reducing the number of trains in order to make up for the losses created by the pandemic. Job cuts and layoffs were also proposed.

The budget passed 6-2 and headed to the public for review before the COVID-19 relief package was signed into law.

Public input for the revised budget, with the COVID-19 relief funding included, will take place in February, with the budget’s final approval coming in April.

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