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Metro to receive additional $120 million in federal pandemic relief

Metro riders board a bus along 14th Street NW in Washington. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
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Another $120 million in federal pandemic relief money is being released to Metro to keep the transit system running and its front-line workers on the job, congressional leaders announced Thursday.

The money is a significant boost for the transit agency, which faces years of financial challenges amid steep ridership losses, particularly from its customer base of federal workers who are increasingly working from home.

“These funds will be helpful in our continued preparation to keep the region moving as many reenter the workplace and resume leisure activities,” Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said in a statement.

The aid is part of the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion bailout package approved by Congress and signed into law a year ago. The money for Metro comes on top of $2.4 billion in federal stimulus money the transit agency received over the past two years, which has saved Metro from making draconian service cuts.

The Department of Transportation awarded the extra money through a $2.2 billion competitive grant program designed to help agencies hit by the pandemic.

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Wiedefeld said the money will support continued operations of the transit system. Metro, with an annual operating budget of about $2 billion, had said recently it expects to run out of federal money next summer, leaving the transit agency to make up the rest.

Transit agency spokeswoman Sherri Ly said the new money will be used for Metro’s fiscal year 2024 operating budget to help offset the projected budget deficit.

Democratic Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia and Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who announced the release of the money Thursday, said it will “deliver needed support” to Metro.

“This funding will help ensure that WMATA is able to meet the needs of its riders, including public servants, residents, and commuters in the DMV region,” they said in a statement.