Oklahoma Airport Alert: Phase 4 COVID-19 Relief Signed into Law, CARES Act 2.0 Summary

Submitted by Sandra Shelton on Thu, 12/31/2020 - 12:49pm

Dear Aviation and Aerospace Community,

The “Phase 4” COVID-19 relief package which includes provisions for airports has been announced and was signed into law by the President earlier this week. Dec. 21, 2020, Congress passed H.R. 133, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The legislation combines $900B in COVID-19 aid as part of the $1.4T omnibus which provides government funding through September 2021.  The legislation was nearly 6,000 pages, and one of the largest bills ever passed by Congress.

Airports and their concessionaires are slated to receive $2 billion in relief protecting the industry that supports 2.7 million jobs nationally and is vital to the country’s transportation network and economic health.

CARES Act funding signed into law in March of this year included $10 billion for airports across the country. This go-around, the funding for airports pales in comparison to what we were asking for.  While Congress did not provide additional funding for state and local governments, it did extend the spending deadline for funding from the CARES Act to cover costs incurred through December 31, 2021. In talking with Senator Inhofe’s office, there is no opportunity for change in this relief package like there was previously when airports were not included earlier this year.

We would request that you reach out to your Congressional Delegation and visit with them about this latest relief measure.  The message we’ve already expressed and what we would suggest for airport operators within the Oklahoma Airport System should be one of gratitude, but that it was not enough. We appreciate anything we can get in terms of relief.  That being said, this financial respite will not be enough to provide the necessary relief that airports were asking for. More must be done for airports in the next round of relief legislation expected to take place next spring. Airports are still hurting, and traffic and therefore revenue has not fully recovered.

In page 3 of the attached summaryFAA Grants-in-Aid for Airports lists grants for the operations and personnel cost of airports, including economic relief for retailers at the airport (i.e., concessionaires), and for assistance to communities with small airports to continue operating and provide a safe environment for passengers.  The legislation provides $2 billion for airports and airport concessionaries and $16 billion for the Payroll Support Program. The breakdown of the funding is below:

  • $1.75 billion for direct grants to commercial service airports for operations, personnel, cleaning, sanitization, janitorial services, combating the threat of pathogens at the airport and debt service payments
  • $200 million for grants to commercial service airports and to airport concessionaires for rent and minimum annual guarantee payments to on-airport car rental, on-airport parking, and in-terminal airport concessions
  • $45 million for general aviation and commercial service airports that are not primary airports
  • $5 million for small communities to address air service issues.
  • Funding for commercial service airports will be distributed using the standard apportionment formulas and enplanement levels and general aviation funding distributed based on General Aviation categories.

    Of the $16 billion for the Payroll Support Program to cover aviation workers’ payroll expenses through March 31, 2021, the break out is this:

  • $15 billion is for passenger air carrier workers and
  • $1 billion is for employees of contractors that provide ground services directly to air carriers (such as catering services or on-airport functions)

The relief package also contains $10B for highways and state DOTs ($2B less from what was originally proposed).  

When talking with your tenants, be sure to relay to them that the FAA CARES Act Grants have been used for a variety of critical infrastructure and safety projects across the state which include constructing runways and taxiways, repairing runways and taxiways, installing aircraft lighting and signage, conducting airport master plan studies and installing airport perimeter fencing. These CARES Act funds are updating airports to prepare communities for economic growth.

If you need any assistance or clarification of this information, please don’t hesitate to contact myself or one of our aviation program managers. I’m looking forward to visiting with as many of you as I can in the coming new year. See you down the flight path.

Grayson Ardies
State Director of Aeronautics
State of Oklahoma