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CAT CARES Act application approved as funding challenges mount
Posted on August 12, 2020
Savannah, Ga. – Chatham Area Transit officials were notified Tuesday that CAT’s CARES ACT grant has been approved and the transit agency can soon begin drawing down the almost $10.8 million in funding to cover expenses incurred during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
While providing some relief, the funding is not expected to be enough to cover a potential funding deficit up to $5.8 million. In a special called meeting on Tuesday, CAT Board members were told the agency might have to implement cost reductions by about 20 percent of CAT’s adopted budget for the current fiscal year. The presentation was for information purposes only and no actions were taken during the meeting.
With suspended fares and contracted revenue on hold, in addition to a projected decrease in property tax revenue and an increase in expenses related to safety equipment, the cost reductions were proposed to prevent a potential operating shortfall and to build up a strong reserve fund for unforeseen emergencies as the pandemic continues, said CAT CEO Bacarra S. Mauldin.
Even with the CARES Act funding, CAT must plan for the pandemic continuing into 2021 and cost reductions may be necessary, Mauldin said.
“Each option impacts numerous lives and it is something we don’t take lightly,” she said. “This is the reason I felt it was extremely important to bring this to the Board’s attention and in partnership with each of you, we can make responsible decisions for this agency.”
The options presented Tuesday included administrative staff pay cuts and furloughs, as well as layoffs and early retirement packages throughout the organization. The service cut options included reducing schedules and eliminating some routes with low ridership.
CAT has contracted with several outside consultants in areas of finance, grants, and transit operations to assist in a thorough review of CAT’s past and projected expenses in order to determine the right balance between cutting costs and minimizing service cuts to the public.
No definitive dates were set for implementation of any of the options. The presentations were for informational purposes only.