Tennessee’s Public Transit Systems Get Big Chunk of Taxpayer Money, Courtesy of COVID-19 Relief Funding


U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN-09) announced that, as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the already publicly-funded Memphis Area Transit Authority will receive more nearly $36 million in taxpayer money.

This, according to a press release Cohen released late last week.

MATA is Memphis’ public transportation provider.

Cohen’s press release said members of the Federal Transit Administration will disburse the money.

“I know MATA ridership has been hit hard by this pandemic, and the agency is working on an abbreviated Sunday schedule because of reduced ridership,” Cohen said.

“MATA is an essential service in our community, and I’m pleased this timely funding will help MATA be able to sustain and provide its service.”

MATA spokeswoman Nicole C. Lacey told The Tennessee Star in an email Monday that other public transit systems outside of Shelby County will also receive funding. According to an FTA graph, for instance, Knoxville is getting $18 million.

Lacey then referred us to a press release quoting Chief Executive Officer Gary Rosenfeld.

“This infusion of funding comes at the right  time since we are continuing to operate reduced levels of service during a time of a loss of  ridership,” Rosenfeld said.

“With the support of the federal government and our congressional delegation, this funding will enable MATA to recoup losses that were incurred due to reduction in fare revenues and lost sales tax revenues. This funding also helps us pay for additional expenses such as cleaning, personal protective equipment, etc. due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

FTA officials said in a press release that they would hand out $25 billion in federal money to help the nation’s public transit systems because of COVID-19, again, through The CARE Act.

FTA is allocating $25 billion to recipients of urbanized area and rural area formula funds, with $22.7 billion allocated to large and small urban areas and $2.2 billion allocated to rural areas. Funding will come at a 100 percent federal share, with no local match required, and is available to support capital, operating, and other expenses generally eligible under those programs to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19, the FTA press release said.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]





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2 Thoughts to “Tennessee’s Public Transit Systems Get Big Chunk of Taxpayer Money, Courtesy of COVID-19 Relief Funding”

  1. William Delzell

    Good! Tennessee desperately needs funding to keep its public transit systems afloat. The Southeastern U.S. continues to lag behind the rest of the U.S. in maintaining and expanding public transit. Once the pandemic has subsided and officials can get the buses and trains sufficiently cleaned, people need to start using them instead of continuing our old over-dependency on single occupancy motor vehicles. We cannot allow gridlock to choke our cities and cause more ozone danger. I have had to curtail my use of the city bus during the coronavirus lockdown, but I plan to start using them again once this virus subsides. I don’t like being over-dependent on my car. Neither should you!

  2. 83ragtop50

    Wow. Just think of how many more empty buses can be bought and driven for $36 million. A bureaucrat’s dream come true. What an absolute waste.