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Steamship Authority to share in $12 million in federal aid

A Steamship Authority ferry headed to Martha's Vineyard in 2018.Jonathan Wiggs

The Steamship Authority, which is losing millions of dollars due to reduced ferry service to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard amid the Covid-19 pandemic, will get an infusion of federal funding to keep it operating through July, US Representative William Keating said Friday evening.

The head of the Federal Transit Administration committed Friday to providing $12 million within two weeks to the Steamship Authority and the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, according to a statement from Keating, a Democrat who represents the Cape and the Islands.

“These funds will be critical to bridging the cashflow gap for the Steamship Authority this summer,” Keating said in the statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every one of us deeply. The Steamship Authority is no different, and has been dealing with unprecedented loss of ridership this spring due to the virus and stay home advisory.”


The funding includes $9.8 million in federal coronavirus relief money and the existing annual allocation of $2.45 million for the transportation agencies, according to the statement.

Keating said he hoped the cash would be enough “to fund operations through August when I hope that the Steamship Authority will have recovered to ridership levels that support their mission of maintaining access to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.”

Robert B. Davis, general manager of the Steamship Authority, said in a letter to Governor Charlie Baker last week that ferries might stop running after the end of May if the agency didn’t receive assistance.

“With the rapid onset of the COVID-19 virus, the current travel restrictions imposed by State directives, and the limited cash on-hand balances at its disposal, the Authority cannot wait until December 31, 2020 to present millions of dollars in shortfalls to the Commonwealth seeking its assistance,” Davis wrote in the letter.


In Keating’s statement, Davis thanked the congressman for his help securing the funds, “which will help us fund operations into the heart of the summer season.”

Thomas S. Cahir, administrator of the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, which operates buses across the Cape, said Keating “has worked diligently with public transportation officials on the Cape for years and these funds are the result of that continued effort.”

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him @jeremycfox.