OAKLAND (CBS SF) — BART officials confirmed on Wednesday that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has approved giving the transit agency $251.6 million in federal CARES Act FTA funding.

The sum is the first installment of the $1.3 billion in funding set to be provided to Bay Area transit operators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.

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According to BART officials, the system is currently serving approximately six percent of its regular ridership. Despite the huge decline in ridership, the agency continues to move thousands of healthcare workers, grocery store workers, law enforcement and other essential workers to and from their jobs around the Bay Area daily.

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“These emergency lifeline funds will be used to stabilize our budget and to continue to provide BART service running for essential workers,” said BART General Manager Bob Powers. “I want to thank Speaker Pelosi and our Bay Area congressional delegation for prioritizing transit and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for their leadership and quickly developing the initial distribution formula and balancing the needs of Bay Area transit operators big and small.”

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Powers said that the funds would help bridge the agency’s multi-million funding gap brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Powers noted it would also support BART labor forces, keeping transit workers safe, healthy, and employed.