Covid Bill Bringing Key Relief To Aviation Industry, Leaders Say

 - March 11, 2021, 9:51 AM

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

Wednesday’s final passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is bringing much-needed relief as the aviation industry inches toward recovery, industry groups agree. After votes approving the bill in the U.S. House and Senate last week, the House yesterday signed off on the final version by a 220-211 vote, clearing the way to release $26 billion more in specific aid to air carriers, contractors, airports, maintenance organizations, and—for the first time—aerospace manufacturers.

“Like every other American industry, general aviation has struggled. We are optimistic that we are beginning a slow recovery, and today’s vote to approve additional support for our industry will put us firmly on a positive path,” said Timothy Obitts, president and CEO of the National Air Transportation Association.

General Aviation Manufacturers Association president and CEO Pete Bunce agreed that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the general aviation industry. “Some of the hardest-hit segments include our manufacturers, maintenance providers, the supply chain, and their respective workforces,” he added and praised the inclusion of $3 billion for a cost-sharing program that helps covers manufacturing and repair station employee salaries. “This program will help strengthen our fragile supply chain, keep highly skilled workers in the industry, as well as support some of the smaller companies that need assistance to maintain operations.”

In addition to the cost-sharing program, the bill includes $14 billion to extend the air carrier payroll support program through September and $1 billion for their contractors, as well as $8 billion for airports, $100 million of which is for general aviation airports.

The bill also provides billions more in general loans and grants that could assist the industry. This includes $15 billion for economic injury disaster loans and $7.25 billion in additional payroll protection program money that is targeted for small businesses. Further, there is another $14 billion for vaccine distribution.

While the loans and payroll protection program funding can help some businesses, the vaccine distribution funding stands to help in the efforts of carriers to get supplies to remote regions, NATA said. “We are facilitating the transport of vaccines to rural and remote populations, moving time-sensitive test specimens, and positioning much-needed PPE for medical personnel. The support in this bill is what is needed to ensure we can continue these critical missions,” Obitts said.

NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen earlier had also noted the “critical relief” the bill will provide for business aviation, saying the ongoing reductions in business travel continue to create significant uncertainty.