Cantwell on Senate Floor: “Need to Keep Moving Forward” on COVID Relief

Senator also highlights need for relief for hard-hit transportation sector—WSDOT estimates more than $523 million loss between 2019-2021 due to impacts of COVID, $1.14 billion loss over the next ten years

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) called for the passage of essential COVID-19 relief funding in a speech on the Senate floor.

“I come to the floor today to support a budget resolution and underscore the need for us to keep moving forward on helping the American people during this pandemic,” Senator Cantwell said. “It's clear to me from the people of the Northwest that we have to do more to help them, whether it's vaccines, more PPE equipment, helping our small businesses, continuing to move through this process. It means helping to also understand the individuals most hard hit by the pandemic and sectors of our economy most hard hit.”

In particular, Cantwell, who yesterday officially became Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, spoke about the health and economic impacts of the pandemic on the transportation sector and the importance of keeping transportation systems moving: “The movement of goods and services of people are critical to delivering on the pandemic and to helping our economy not suffer even greater economic impact. We've seen how important the transportation sector is, and we've seen even recently out in the West how our dock workers, ILWU, and others, have suffered major infection rates of COVID and now start to threaten our delivery of goods and products through those systems. And we need to do more to get them vaccines and to make sure that we're moving Americans' products through our ports as well.”

Across the country, state transportation budgets have suffered as ridership and state budget revenues have plummeted since the start of the pandemic. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) estimates a total loss of $523.6 million in transportation revenue between 2019 and 2021, and $1.14 billion over the next ten years, as a result of the impacts of COVID-19. Nationwide, state departments of transportation estimate $50 billion in lost revenues over the next five years and transit agencies will have lost an estimated $50 billion by the end of 2021.

“In the State of Washington… there's a whole list of projects that are now going to be delayed, are not finished, are not done just because of the loss of revenue from ridership and transportation. So our transportation infrastructure needs to be kept going,” Cantwell said. In a Senate floor speech earlier this week on Pete Buttigieg’s confirmation as Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Cantwell specifically called out the need to fix the West Seattle Bridge, replace the I-5 bridge across the Columbia River, and complete the North-South Corridor in Spokane.

Cantwell also emphasized the need to help the aviation sector, which accounts for 5% of GDP nationwide: “We also want to work on a bipartisan basis to do more to help aviation manufacturing… The aviation aerospace sector has lost so many jobs, and there are hundreds of thousands more at risk,” she said.

Touching on the lives lost to the pandemic and emphasizing the need for urgent congressional action to keep Americans safe on the job, Cantwell concluded: “There are so many people in the transportation sector that just went and did their jobs. We've lost lives in aviation. We've lost lives in transit. We've lost lives with dock workers. People have just showed up to continue to do their jobs. And so we need to do better by passing this package, giving them the support, more vaccines, more equipment, more supportive funding so we can keep Americans working in jobs, but working safely. That's what this next package will be about.”

Video of Senator Cantwell’s floor speech is found HERE, audio is HERE, and a transcript is HERE.