September 8, 2020 | 5:57pm
MTA Chairman Pat Foye
Ron Adar/SOPA Images/Shutterstoc
New York’s cash-strapped MTA could be down another $500 million thanks to FEMA’s “baffling” and “reckless” decision to cut COVID-19 funding for mass transit, transit chief Pat Foye fumed Tuesday.
“The MTA’s overall COVID-related expense estimate is approximately $500 million for 2020 alone, with similarly substantial totals projected for the next four years,” Foye wrote in a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency leader Pete Gaynor.
“[These expenses] are inextricably linked to the pandemic and efforts to minimize public health risk during this critical time, and would not be necessary otherwise,” he said.
“Denying that public health reality smacks of not only ignorance but incompetence.”
More than 130 MTA employees have died from COVID-19. Officials have in turn distributed millions of masks to both employees and riders, and disinfected trains and buses daily.
But the rule change set for Sept. 15 prohibits COVID-19 funding for the virus-safe operation of mass transit, schools and other public facilities because they “are not immediate actions necessary to protect public health and safety.”
“FEMA will continue to support the reimbursement of costs required in response to the pandemic for medical care, non-congregate medical sheltering, emergency operations centers for COVID, and other eligible emergency services,” an agency rep said in an email on Tuesday.
“FEMA is not authorized to support the day to day operations and operational expenses of facilities.”
MTA officials have already asked FEMA for $125 million for coronavirus-specific expenses, which they have yet to receive.
“It puts us all back at square one again,” said one bus driver, who told The Post the loss of FEMA funding will be “horrible” for him and his co-workers.
FEMA’s actions come as the fare and toll-starved MTA begs Congress for $12 billion to keep the lights on through the end of 2022.
“The MTA has incurred extra costs, but it also has the costs of running a system that millions of people are still dependent on,” said Riders Alliance spokesman Danny Pearlstein.
“It adds insult to injury to take the place that was hit hardest by COVID, and make us the nation’s punching bag.”