Wausau’s metro ride will get $3.2 million in Coronavirus relief funds — and it will need it

Metro Ride Bus

Metro Ride Bus

The city of Wausau was awarded $3.2 million in federal relief funds related to the CARES Act, says the city’s transit director. 

Wausau’s transit department can use that funding to help pay for any expenses incurred since January, Transit Director Greg Seubert says. It’s money that has to be spent this year; anything carried over simply lowers the amount the transit department would receive next year from federal funds. 

The city’s transit funding structure proved fortunate, Seubert says. The formula for funding is based on the amount a transit department receives from the federal government, and small transit departments such as Wausau’s receive a larger share of its funding from federal dollars as opposed to state dollars. For larger transit departments the opposite is true. “Because of our size, we got the better end of that deal,” Seubert says. 

Seubert says he is working with Mayor Katie Rosenberg and Finance Director Maryanne Groat on developing a plan to spend down the federal dollars on city expenses and use city money designated for transit on some backlogged projects. It’ll also help cover expenses as city busses have been operating without collecting fares since March. The decision was made to protect drivers, because collecting fares would increase the contact with riders that could lead to them catching the Coronavirus. 

The news comes as the coronavirus has exacerbated Metro Ride’s troubles. Only ten riders may ride the bus currently due to social distancing, and Metro Ride like many city transit systems canceled fare collection because collecting the fares would put drivers in contact with riders and in danger of possibly contracting coronavirus. 

Metro Ride hasn’t collected fares since March 20, Seubert says.