WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate voted late Wednesday 96-0 to give the U.S. aviation industry $58 billion in aid, half in the form of grants earmarked to cover some 750,000 employees’ paychecks, in a badly needed lifeline for an industry facing the worst travel downturn in history.
American Airlines passenger planes crowd a runway where they are parked due to flight reductions to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Tulsa International Airport in Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S. March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
The $2 trillion economic rescue package awards passenger airlines $25 billion in grants and $25 billion in loans, cargo carriers another $8 billion divided between loans and grants, and airport contractors like caterers up to $3 billion in grants. The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote to approve the measure Friday and President Donald Trump has promised to sign it into law.
Senate Republicans had fought what they called a give away to airlines and initially offered only loans, while airlines had threatened to start laying off tens of thousands within days if they did not get cash.
“This is not a corporate bailout; it’s a rescue package for workers,” said Association of Flight Attendants Sara Nelson, who spearheaded the idea of direct payroll grants for employees ranging from janitorial staff and gate agents to mechanics and pilots.
Reuters reported Chao worked the phones late into the night talking to air carriers about what they needed to ensure they could maintain payrolls, a person briefed on call on Tuesday that lawmakers were nearing agreement on