US DOT designates $10b in relief funding for Airports

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has designated the $10 billion in funds set aside for commercial and general aviation airports under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Airport Grant Program. It announced funding awards a little more than two weeks after the CARES Act became law.

“This $10 billion in emergency resources will help fund the continued operations of our nation’s airports during this crisis and save workers’ jobs,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in announcing the awards.

The department assigned grants to large and small airports alike, and funding will be available as soon as airport sponsors complete a grant agreement under a streamlined process the FAA is implementing. FAA Administrator Steve Dickson praised the FAA’s Office of Airports “for creating an entirely new program in record time to assist airport sponsors in desperate need of these funds.”

Airport sponsors should work with local FAA Office of Airports field offices on the application process, the FAA said, encouraging them to spend the funding immediately. The DOT designed the funding to support continuing operations and replace lost revenue during the Covid-19 crisis, but also made it available for capital expenses and debt payments.

More than $1 billion went to 188 airports in California alone, including $69,000 for business and general aviation facilities such as Reid-Hillview and Santa Monica, with Van Nuys slated to receive $157,000 and Santa Barbara $9.55 million. Los Angeles International, meanwhile, will receive $324 million.

Elsewhere, Palm Beach International expects to receive $36 million; Teterboro in New Jersey $157,000; Westchester County in New York $23.6 million; Dekalb-Peachtree in Georgia $157,000; Fort Worth Alliance in Texas $157,000; Dupage in Illinois $157,000; and Aspen-Pitkin $3.4 million, among others.

However, not all airports might accept their funding. City officials in Santa Monica, who have long expressed a desire to close the airport, are considering foregoing the grants to make sure they have the option of closing the facility in 2028, according to the local Santa Monica Daily Press

In addition to the direct funding, the department designated $500 million to increase the federal share of the Airport Improvement Program.

“This pandemic has had a devastating impact on aviation, including general aviation, and the businesses, operators, airports, and communities that depend on this vital lifeline,” said Selena Shilad, executive director of the Alliance for Aviation Across America. “These airports and aircraft support businesses of all sizes, as well as agriculture, law enforcement, firefighting, medical care, disaster relief, and many critical services.”

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