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SEPTA expects to avoid layoffs, service cuts for now as D.C. promises $252M in COVID relief

By PlanPhilly

SEPTA officials expect to soon breathe a little easier with an estimated $252 million in additional federal relief funds coming to the beleaguered transit agency.

The money comes from a federal COVID-19 relief package passed in December that included $14 billion for mass transit agencies. It will help SEPTA cover operating expenses as its cash reserves deplete under the strain of a lingering pandemic that has robbed it of hundreds of thousands of daily fare-paying riders.

Prior to the pandemic, SEPTA clocked about 1 million trips per day, but since the summer that number has sat at about 300,000 — a major blow to the agency’s revenue stream.

“This funding is a great assistance,” said Andrew Busch, a SEPTA spokesperson. “We have to continue to look at the big picture, but we are very happy to get this kind of assistance.”

SEPTA received $643 million back in April from the first COVID relief bill. Authority officials estimated the money would help the agency stay afloat, avoiding layoffs and service cuts until the end of 2021. With the latest round of funds, the authority ought to be able to keep things together into 2022, said Busch, but an exact timeline remains unclear.

In the meantime, the authority still has to “look at any ways that we can to control costs and reduce expenses,” Busch said. “That’s a fixed amount of money and as grateful as we are for it, it’s not a solution that’s going to sustain us for years to come.”


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