U.S. Department of Transportation workers were back to work Wednesday morning, March 3, after a short-lived shutdown. As a result, reimbursements to states from the Highway Trust Fund have resumed and so have other provisions, including unemployment benefits.
Some 2,000 employees of the FHWA, FMCSA, NHTSA and FTA were affected by the one-day shutdown after the Senate failed to pass a routine extension this past Friday. Senators resolved the matter on Tuesday when Sen. Jim Bunning, R-KY, agreed to end his filibuster.
The bill, HR4691, passed 78-19 and President Obama was expected to sign it.
“I am pleased that the Senate has acted to break its logjam and extend the Highway Trust Fund for another 30 days,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “This means that our valued employees may return to work. It also means that their important work of getting the economy back on its feet, ensuring Americans’ safety, and keeping critical construction projects moving will be able to continue.”
In addition to highway spending, the extension includes unemployment benefits to 400,000 Americans, subsidies for COBRA premiums, flood insurance and $60 million in small-business loans.
Still, the extension for highway spending is only scheduled to last for the next 30 days. At that time, Congress will have to pass another short-term bill or complete work on Senate jobs bill HR2847. That legislation would see the Trust Fund extended through the end of the year.
OOIDA, the American Highway Users Alliance and others say it’s time for Congress to put an end to 30-day extensions and pass a new authorization bill that will last five or six years.
– By David Tanner, associate editor