Airlines Would Get $37 Billion in Grants in Pelosi’s Virus Plan

Struggling airlines would get $37 billion in grants to keep workers on the job as part of a $71 billion package to rescue airlines and airports under the latest version of a coronavirus stimulus bill being drafted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The provisions are in a draft of a $2.5 trillion stimulus bill House Democrats are preparing in a bid to influence ongoing talks on the Senate’s version.

The House plan would require airlines that accept federal aid to give labor a seat on their board of directors, offset carbon emissions by 2025 and would fund a program to be run by the Transportation Department to make carrier fleets more fuel efficient by scrapping older planes, according to a press release issued by top Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee who oppose those provisions.

The draft measure, which was still being developed late Monday, would also provide up to $21 billion in loans to help air carriers continue operations amid plummeting travel due to the virus, said the person, who asked for anonymity to discuss the bill’s contents during negotiations. Airline contractors would also also see $3 billion for payroll support grants, while airports would see $10 billion in grant funding.

While it still may change, the latest plan backed by House Democrats to help ailing airlines differs substantially from a rival virus stimulus package released last week by Senate Republicans. That bill proposed making $50 billion in government loans available to passenger airlines plus another $8 billion for cargo haulers but offered no grants, which airlines have said are essential to avoid sweeping layoffs in the sector.

Airlines for America, a lobby group for the largest U.S. carriers, said on Saturday that the industry would be forced to furlough workers unless lawmakers provided at least $29 billion in grants to prop up passenger and cargo carrier payrolls. The Regional Airline Association, which represents smaller carriers that perform about 40% of all flights, has said its members would be decimated without some form of direct aid beyond loans.

Pelosi’s plan also includes several strings attached to the airline aid that has drawn the ire of House Republicans.

“Speaker Pelosi has put forward a bill that is full of provisions that have nothing to do with responding to the Covid-19 crisis and helping the American people,” Representative Sam Graves, the panel’s ranking member, and Garret Graves, the top Republican on the panel’s aviation subcommittee, said in a statement. “Instead her bill’s focus is unrelated handouts for her radical environmental allies and other special interests.”

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