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March 16, 2020 12:45 PM, EDT

House Republicans Explore Aid for Airports, Loans to Airlines

Stephen Dickson, FAA administrator, speaks during a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on Dec. 11, 2019. The agency awarded $3.2 billion to airports in 2019.Stephen Dickson, FAA administrator, speaks during a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on Dec. 11, 2019. The FAA awarded $3.2 billion to airports in 2019. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

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House Republicans say they are exploring a range of proposals — from loans to grants for cleaning airports — to help the aviation industry staggering under the weight of the coronavirus outbreak.

GOP leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are considering a federal loan program to help airlines buy jet fuel and are discussing unspecified “tax relief” for the industry, according to an emailed summary of proposals being discussed.

The proposals are still being finalized and it isn’t clear yet whether they will be attached to stand-alone legislation or another bill, according to the summary.

Committee Democrats, who control the majority in the House, haven’t said what measures they’re considering. White House officials are discussing allowing airlines to keep some taxes and fees they collect as a temporary means to helping their bottom lines, Bloomberg News reported March 13.

Under the GOP proposals being discussed, an existing stream of grants, the Airport Improvement Program, could be used to funnel money to the nation’s airports for operational costs including sanitation and janitorial work. Under AIP, the Federal Aviation Administration awarded $3.2 billion to airports in 2019, according to the agency.

The coronavirus outbreak has severely reduced travel, causing widespread financial hardship at airlines and airports. The rush to return to the U.S. this past weekend after a partial ban on travel to Europe prompted some airports to become overwhelmed as passengers faced additional screening.