The Steamship Authority has experienced unparalleled economic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing it to drastically reduce the service schedule and furlough over 100 employees
Washington, DC -- United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Congressman William Keating (D-MA-09) sent a letter urging the House and Senate leadership to provide financial support to ferry services, like the Steamship Authority (SSA), that have experienced unparalleled economic challenges due to the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic as extensive measures have been taken to prioritize public health, which have led to a significant drop in ferry passenger activity. As a result, the Massachusetts lawmakers request the inclusion of at least $3 billion for emergency ferry service relief, to be distributed nationally through the existing Construction of Ferry Boats and Ferry Terminal Facilities Formula Program.
SSA provides necessary transportation for those traveling on and off the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket to Cape Cod, and for many, the SSA provides the only affordable transportation option in the region. However, the stay-at-home advisory issued by Governor Baker on March 23, which was recently extended to May 18, has had a significant impact on SSA ferry services.
SSA relies on fare revenue, but between March 17 and April 14, the SSA lost an estimated $2.99 million in revenue. SSA has also reported losses of $1 million a week because of the decreased ridership related to COVID-19. Ridership is down to 15 percent of the usual volume compared with previous years. This is the same time period when SSA begins to see an influx of seasonal passengers and has been forced to drastically reduce the service schedule and furlough over 100 employees in an effort to extend operations until May 2020.
"Due to the dramatic decrease in ridership as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SSA is struggling to continue their operations and the SSA has stated that they will not be able to provide needed services to the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket after this month without financial relief," the lawmakers wrote. "As a result, we request that Congress allocate at least $3 billion in emergency relief funding targeted specifically at ferry services, to be distributed through the existing Construction of Ferry Boats and Ferry Terminal Facilities Formula Program."