NRC COVID-19 Resources and a Breakdown of Legislative Activities

Railway contractors and suppliers across the United States continue to be hard at work, even as the COVID-19 situation disrupts and threatens life around the world. Your work to provide essential construction and maintenance services on our nation’s freight, passenger and industrial railways is even more challenging in light of COVID-19.

Here are resources and updates for NRC member companies to safeguard your workforce and the general public as you work tirelessly to facilitate the safe and efficient movements of people and goods within and across our nation.

This information will be continually updated as new information is available. If you need additional assistance, please contact the NRC. Our staff is available and working remotely, as mandated through Order 2020-053, issued by District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser.

COVID-19 Industry Resources

NRC Overview of COVID-19 Legislative Efforts

NRC members may have questions regarding the legislation passed and under consideration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly as it relates to rail contractors and suppliers. Here is a summary to date. Please contact the NRC staff if you have questions or suggestions.

Bill 1 (passed March 6, 2020: $8.3 billion bill focused on COVID-19 vaccine research and development.

Bill 2 (passed March 18, 2020): $104 billion bill focused on paid sick leave and unemployment benefits for workers and families. Several provisions of are of note to small businesses.

Bill 3 (passed March 27, 2020): $2 trillion stimulus package, largest stimulus bill ever passed, includes significant transportation and infrastructure funding. Review bill text. Here is a summary of the rail-related provisions:

U.S. DOT Operations – $31.3 million in budgetary resources to support activities by the Office of the Secretary, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, and Maritime Administration to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus. Funding would support increased needs for telework and information technology, inspection equipment, preparing and equipping the National Defense Reserve Fleet, Ready Reserve Fleet, the United States Merchant Marine Academy, and State Maritime Academies.

Amtrak – $1.018 billion to support Amtrak’s ability to operate passenger rail service on Northeast Corridor, state-supported, and long-distance routes, and to protect Amtrak workers. This includes $239 million to assist states in making FAST Act required payments to Amtrak for state-supported routes.

  • Northeast Corridor Grants - $492 million, grantee is Amtrak, awarded via grant agreement
  • National Network - 1) $526 million, grantee is Amtrak, awarded via grant agreement, 2) $239 million to cover the cost of State-supported routes.

Transit $25 billion for grants to transit agencies nationwide for operating expenses of those agencies to ensure continued operation of transit services. Also eliminates any requirement that transit agencies use their own funds to receive federal assistance and maintains key worker protections.

  • Transit Infrastructure Grants - $25 billion, grantees are transit agencies, awarded via formula, 100% Federal share. is based on the FY 2020 allocations for: 1) Area Formula Grants(5307), 2) Non-urbanized Area Formula Grants (5311), 3) State of Good Repair (5337) , 4) High Density and Growing States (5340).

Bill 3.5 (passed April 24, 2020): Congress and the Trump Administration approved a $484 billion relief package. This includes $321 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, which ran out of by parts of the recent $2 trillion CARES Act. It also includes another$60 billion in economic disaster loans for small businesses, $75 billion in emergency relief for hospitals and $25 billion to increase coronavirus testing. This brings the current total of federal spending on COVID-19 response to approximately $2.7 trillion.  It is expected that another package containing additional economic stimulus support, potentially including funding for transportation-related industries and state & local governments, will continue to be negotiated over the course of the coming weeks and months. Additional potential stimulus measures, including supplementary transportation-focused measures and funds.
Fiscal Year 2020 CARES Act Supplemental Public Transportation Apportionments and Allocations

Bill 4 (passed December 21, 2020): Congress and the Trump Administration approved a $900 billion stimulus package. This includes $284 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program and $45 billion in transportation aid, including $14 billion for transit, $10 billion for State DOTs, and $1 billion for Amtrak. The bill does not include additional funding to state and local governments, however the bill provides state and local governments with an extension to spend funding they received under the CARES Act to the new deadline of December 31, 2021. See bill text here and summary here.

Bill 5 (passed March 10, 2021): Congress and the Biden Administration approved a $1.9 trillion stimulus package. The bill includes $30.5 billion in transit funding and $1.7 billion for Amtrak.

  • See bill text here.
  • American Rescue Plan summaries: U.S. Dept. of Treasury summary here and U.S. DOT summary here.

Other Updates

Relevant DOT agencies have published an FAQ page to their public website, which indicates under the FRA guidance section that both passenger and freight rail operators are subject to EO 13998 issued on January 21, 2021 and the CDC’s order requiring masks during rail transportation.

DOT has established an e-mail address for questions regarding implementation of the CDC order at RailroadsMaskup@dot.gov

March 1, 2021 - The FRA issued an emergency order effective March 1, 2021, requiring railroad employees to wear masks while on the job. This follows through on orders from the CDC and White House in recent weeks which legally require masks to be worn by employees and passengers of various transportation modes. The FRA order says that carriers must require their employees to wear a CDC-compliant mask while engaged in "railroad operations," including whenever they are in a facility or transportation hub operated by the company.

Under the order, rail carriers also have to develop a plan to deal with employees who refuse to wear masks.

  • Exceptions: Employees who are working in the enclosed cab of a locomotive, maintenance vehicle or other on-track equipment are exempt from the requirements, and there are also standard exemptions for people with disabilities and for rail workers to temporarily take their masks off to eat or drink.
  • Consequences: The notice warns that companies violating the order could be hit with civil penalties as high as $118,826 a day. Railroad personnel who violate it can also be removed from safety-sensitive activities.
  • The rationale: In its notice, part of the FRA's reasoning for the necessity of the order was to protect its own safety inspectors, who interact with railroad personnel and have noticed inconsistent mask wearing while on the job. Not all rail companies have issued their own requirements, and the FRA says it has witnessed railroad workers not wearing masks, even when in close proximity to others, including when they've been approached by the safety inspectors.
"The critical practice of wearing a face mask is not consistent or uniform among railroad personnel," the notice says.
  • Rail passengers already covered: The order does not apply to passengers or employees on passenger trains or stations, because a previous TSA order already required masks for those categories.

January 29, 2021 - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order requiring the public to wear face masks while on conveyances and in transportation hubs, including rail transit. This CDC order implements relevant provisions from Executive Order 13998, Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel, signed by President Joseph R. Biden on January 21, 2021.

January 31, 2021 - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued a Security Directive that took effective February 1, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. and enforces the requirements of the CDC order mentioned above as well as implement the EO 13998 issued on January 21, 2021. This Security Directive will be in effect for 100-days with a projected expiration date of May 11, 2021 which may be extended by TSA if conditions warrant.

What our members say…

As Chair of the new NRC Policy and Legislative Committee, I see opportunities for us to make a greater impact on the future. Our committee is exploring new ways to participate while further examining issues that affect our member companies. We realize not everyone can attend events, such as Railroad Day, so will be offering other opportunities for employees of our member companies to get involved.

Curtis Bilow

Vice President, Business Development

Ames Construction Co.

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