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Economic aid for a federal loan program for small businesses and for the airline industry, including cargo carriers, garnered the support of President Donald Trump.
On Twitter on Oct. 6, the president stated: “The House & Senate should IMMEDIATELY Approve 25 Billion Dollars for Airline Payroll Support, & 135 Billion Dollars for Paycheck Protection Program for Small Business.”
The Paycheck Protection Program, operated by the U.S. Small Business Administration, is designed to deliver access to forgivable loans for businesses that meet certain criteria.
On Capitol Hill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) emphasized her team would negotiate with the White House on pandemic-related economic aid. The House recently advanced a $2.2 trillion COVID-19 emergency aid bill along party lines. The measure, an update of the House-passed Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, or HEROES, Act, included financial assistance for the airlines.
“The health and economic catastrophe facing our country continues to cry out for urgent action. The American people cannot afford to wait until next year for action, so House Democrats are making good on our offer to compromise,” Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said Oct. 1.
On the Senate side, senior Republicans introduced legislation that would provide nearly $30 billion for airlines, including cargo air carriers. The Air Carrier Worker Support Extension Act also would extend the airline worker payroll support program through March. Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said Sept. 21: “Maintaining a strong national air transportation system is critical for today’s economy and the continued recovery.”
Meanwhile, Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky announced the chamber would resume its work schedule after Oct. 19. Hearings on a Supreme Court nominee are expected to begin a week earlier, while consideration of the next pandemic aid package is essentially sidelined in the upper chamber.
“The important work of the Senate’s committees can and will continue as each committee sees fit. The Senate Judiciary Committee will convene on Oct. 12 as Chairman [Lindsey] Graham has scheduled to begin confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The Senate’s floor schedule will not interrupt the thorough, fair and historically supported confirmation process previously laid out by Chairman Graham,” McConnell said Oct. 3.
From left: Sens. Johnson, Tillis and Lee
McConnell updated the upper chamber’s work schedule after Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah announced they tested positive for COVID-19.
Several transportation stakeholders continue to urge congressional leaders to advance economic recovery funds. Officials from the airline industry announced they had begun to furlough workers. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials called for $37 billion in emergency aid for state departments of transportation.
In a letter to House policymakers Oct. 5, AASHTO Executive Director Jim Tymon indicated, “Despite the enduring uncertainty and ever-evolving nature of this pandemic, the nation’s state DOTs are working tirelessly to ensure the health and safety of their residents, employees and the traveling public. But their valiant efforts alone will not be enough without this critical component of COVID-19 federal funding assistance.”
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