Axios' Ina Fried and Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.). Photo: Axios

The federal government must prioritize local and state transportation for the economy to recover from the pandemic, Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) stressed on Friday, calling the alternative "unthinkable" during an Axios virtual event on The Future of Transportation & COVID-19.

The big picture: Many cities have introduced funding cuts to their public transit systems after the pandemic shut down economies. Ridership is still down in many regions, and those cuts affect essential workers the most, Butterfield said.

What he's saying: "We want to invest in these communities to keep them from having to lay off first responders and fire and police personnel. We don’t want them to have to raise property taxes and to do other things necessary in order to balance their budgets. Our governmental units are underwater."

  • "All of these mass transits systems are underwater, and they’re in need of immediate capital."
  • "If we don't have a robust transportation system then we're not going to have a robust economy."

What to watch: The economic stimulus package called the HEROES Act that passed in the House has $1 trillion for "state and local support," including public transit funding. The measure is stalled in the Senate.

Watch the event here.

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