On Wednesday, June 6, an agreement was reached by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council to allocate around $100 million in funding to a program that wants to provide low-income New York City residents with reduced-fare MetroCards for riding the subway and buses.
At a late-night meeting on Wednesday in City Hall, the Fair Fares program’s most vocal supporter Speaker Corey Johnson struck a deal with de Blasio for the city to fully subsidize the cost of providing New Yorkers whose income is below the federal poverty line, which is an income of $25,000 for a family of four, with half-price MetroCards.
The discounted fares program could help close to 800,000 city residents. While the details on how to put the complex plan into action still need to be worked out, the biggest issue of how to fund the program has been decided. According to the New York Times, “The city will provide $106 million in its upcoming budget, which would pay for six months of the program, beginning in January, one of the people said. Starting halfway through the next fiscal year would allow the city to mount an advertising and public education campaign.”
A public handshake is expected to occur on Monday, June 11, between the mayor and Johnson, to seal the deal after months of back-and-forth negotiations. 6sqft reports, “De Blasio resisted adding the program to the city’s budget and has suggested taxing the wealthiest residents to pay for the subsidy. He also backs the same millionaires’ tax to fund subway repairs, a notion that has been called ‘dead on arrival’ in Albany by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.”
A Fair Fares program has been a top priority for Johnson during his first year as speaker. He told reporters during a news conference that he has been speaking with the mayor “every single day about this.”
A city agency, most likely the Human Resources Administration that manages benefit programs for the city, would handle the money instead of the MTA, according to what The Times was told by a source briefed on the deal. The new discounted MetroCards would be inline with the subsidized fares that are now given to seniors, students, individuals with disabilities in addition to approximately 40,000 other cash assistance recipients.
According to 6sqft, “Some of these programs provide MetroCards for about $1.35 per ride, less than half the typical $2.75 rate for subway and bus fare. The City Council has estimated that 40 percent of those eligible would sign up, with the number of people enrolled doubling once the program is fully implemented. The full cost could be roughly $250 million.”
By Hannah Hayes