Bridges and Trains and Museums, Oh My

COVID-19, ARP AnalysisBridges and Trains and Museums, Oh MyTrue or untrue?

Budget & Tax,  | Analysis
Feb 25, 2021  | 4 min read | Print Article

There’s a reason we dive into the details. The bigger the bills and dollars, the more room there is for what’s not necessary. And the easier it is to misunderstand or sometimes misrepresent them. We were asked about some numbers making the rounds, and here’s what we think:  

  • $1.5 million for bridge connecting NY and Canada 
    • Via the Washington Post: “Section 7004 — Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation Operations and Maintenance” calls for $1.5 million to conduct, “the operations, maintenance, and capital infrastructure activities of the Seaway International Bridge. 
    • Also, “The New York State bridge is a vital crossing between the United States and Canada that has seen toll revenues plummet as a result of pandemic travel restrictions,” one Democratic aide said. “Without additional funds, the bridge would likely close.” 

According to Punchbowl News, the request to provide $1.5 million to the bridge was made in the spring of 2020, when the Transportation Department was headed by Elaine Chao, the wife of Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. 

  • $100 million underground rail project in Silicon Valley 
    • Washington PostSection 7006 — Federal Transit Administration Grants” sets aside over a billion dollars for Capital Investment Grants (CIG). Within this money, it is estimated that $112.5 million would go to the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) and Silicon Valley Phase II Extension Project. 
    • Transit systems have experienced significant revenue losses due to COVID-19. That said, it is unclear that new construction funds need to be in this package. 
  • $500 million for museums and Native American language preservation 
    • Native American language preservation is Section 2024 and is $10 million. 
    • The Institute of Museum and Library Services (not specific to Native Americans) gets $200 million in Section 2023. We’re not finding any other references to museums, so that comes to total of $210 million, not $500 million.  
    • It’s possible they’re adding up and rounding these two numbers:  
      • Nat Endowment for Arts = $135 million 
      • Nat Endowment for Humanities = $135 million 

Still well short of $500 million.  

  • $1.5 billion Amtrak which still has $1 billion in unspent aid 
    • This is correct – though we don’t have access to how much unspent funding Amtrak has on hand.
  • $100 million for COVID-19 health outcome disparities in areas with pollution 
    • $50 million for research and monitoring regarding the link between air pollution and public health outcome disparities of COVID-19. Specifically, the $50 million could be used on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) programs such as a “research and development program for prevention and control of air pollution” and “air pollutant monitoring, analysis, modeling, and inventory research.” 
    • The provision (Section 3301) would spend another $50 million on a broader range of potential pollution links to worse COVID-19 outcomes in addition to air pollution, including water pollution and brownfield site pollution (which may include hazardous substances or other contaminants). A previous version of the bill would have funded solid waste disposal and toxic substances as well. Still, the broad language could include program spending that is not targeted directly at emergency COVID-19 response.  
  • $50 million “family planning” for orgs like Planned Parenthood
    • Family planning funding is correct, but Planned Parenthood is not specifically mentioned. 

We should also mention that this list represents $2.2B out of a $1900B package (0.1 percent)Please read our additional analysis for much bigger chunks of change clanging around in here (looking at you agriculture).   

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