Yesterday, the United States’ Congress approved a $900 billion stimulus package for COVID-19 relief, $45 billion of which is embarked for the nation’s transportation sector. This bipartisan legislative deal will grant approximately $15 billion to U.S. airlines in payroll assistance. This move will allow this heavily hit transportation sector to return countless laid-off workers to their labor force. Other transportation and travel departments affected by this deal include railroads, public transit, and state highways. Each is due to receive approximately $1 billion, $14 billion, and $10 billion, respectively.
The assistance comes after five months of lobbying by aviation unions, airline executives, and U.S. government transit officials–all of who argued that the United States transportation sector is continually devastated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many also pushed for aid, claiming that a lack of it would force draconian cuts in service and employment. Airlines alone furloughed more than 32,000 workers, with American Airlines laying off 19,000 employees and United Airlines 3,000 after their $25 billion bailout stipend expired in late September. As of October, the U.S. Transportation Department said local passenger airlines had only 368,000 full-time workers, a 38% drop from the previous year. Overall, U.S. carriers are losing $180 million in cash daily, with passenger volumes down nearly 70% from year-earlier levels while cancellations are rising, according to industry lobby Airlines for America.
The relief package will enable airlines to pay workers retroactively and resume specific routes that were canceled after the prior aid packaged expired. Another condition of the assistance comes in allowing airline workers to maintain their positions through March 31 of the new year. $1.75 billion is towards airport infrastructure, $200 million for airport concessionaires, $1 billion for airport contractors, and $2 billion for private motorcoach, school bus, and ferry industries. Overall, this new assistance is expected to mirror one from March, which required large airlines to repay 30% of payroll grants over time and offer the government warrants. It is also expected to include minimum flight requirements. Officials hope that airlines will receive the funds approximately ten days after the bill is signed.