Airline Aid Remains in Limbo as Senate Cancels Votes
- U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said the Senate will not vote on legislation until Oct. 19, after several Republican senators contracted the coronavirus and went into quarantine. President Donald Trump has been hospitalized with Covid-19, and other Senate Republicans who attended a White House event last week are being tested for the disease. These developments put further airline aid in jeopardy, at least until the full legislature returns.
Airlines began furloughing tens of thousands of workers on Oct. 1 when payroll support through the CARES Act expired. The industry had held out hope that Congress would extend the program through March, but a legislative solution evaporated when the Senate canceled votes due to the latest coronavirus outbreak.
The House last week narrowly passed the $2.2t HEROES Act, which had $25b in airline payroll support. The bill made further aid contingent on the same restrictions that were in the CARES Act: Airlines taking the aid would have to serve all their pre-pandemic destinations and could not furlough employees through March 2021, among other provisions. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) brought the bill to a vote late last week after talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to reach a compromise.
Pelosi on Friday said she was open to standalone bill Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) had introduced. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) had introduced a separate, $28b standalone bill in the Senate.
But with the Senate not voting on any legislation until later this month, the HEROES Act and any airline-specific legislation have stalled for now.
Spokesman for American and United told Airline Weekly that the furlough process had begun, but the carriers could reverse the furloughs if more aid became available. American is planning to furlough up to 19k employees, and United is furloughing more than 13k. Several regional carriers also are furloughing thousands of workers.