American seaports are applauding the transportation spending benefits included in the 2021 Omnibus appropriation package signed by President Trump on Sunday after a last-minute delay and in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that has been vetoed by the President but is expected to be passed through override votes in Congress this week.
The omnibus spending bill includes the $900 billion coronavirus fiscal stimulus bill, which economists say is a critical ingredient in the nation’s continued recovery from the economic shock of coronavirus shutdowns, and would provide $600 relief checks to many American workers alongside a second round of payroll protection loans.
More specific to transportation infrastructure, that bill also authorizes use of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020, which includes Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) spending and the first-ever drawdowns from the $9.3 billion balance in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), according to the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA).
And in the second bill, the NDAA would authorize the Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Program (MTSERP), which wasn’t yet provided with funding but represents a first-of-its-kind mechanism available to ports for getting federal funds appropriated and distributed as direct relief following disasters, including pandemics such as Covid-19, AAPA said.
“While we’re ecstatic about the hard-fought WRDA reforms being included in the year-end FY 2021 appropriations package, we’re disappointed that relief for ports and those in the maritime industry, hard hit by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, wasn’t included,” AAPA President and CEO Christopher Connor said in a release. “That said, establishment of the MTSERP as part of the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act was a major victory, and with it we’ll continue to work with policymakers and our maritime partners to bring much needed relief to the industry."
The Port of Los Angeles likewise praised lawmakers for approving the WRDA as part of the year-end omnibus and Covid relief package, saying it will provide important support for the country’s ports, harbors, and inland waterways, such as dredging, cleanup, and maintenance. Funding for that work comes from the HMT, which is collected on the value of imports, certain domestic cargo, and on cruise passengers. The tax was created to fund 100% of operations and maintenance costs of federal navigation channels and generated revenue of nearly $1.8 billion in fiscal year 2019, the port said.
The Port of Los Angeles praised U.S. Congressional and local leaders for approving the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 as part of the year-end omnibus and COVID relief legislative package. #WRDA2020— Port of Los Angeles (@PortofLA) December 23, 2020
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