By Alan Levin
Airlines would get $17 billion in U.S. government aid to recall furloughed workers and help cover payrolls through March under a bipartisan pandemic relief package unveiled in Congress on Monday that won immediate backing from an industry group.
Airlines “enthusiastically support” the proposal, the trade group Airlines for America said in a press release. Carriers will attempt to bring back workers who have been laid off if it passes, “but that becomes increasingly challenging with each passing day,” the group said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked top congressional leaders in both parties to meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss Covid-19 relief and a crucial government spending package, congressional aides said, in what could be a make-or-break moment for a grand bargain after months of stalemate.
The $748 billion bill was put forth by a dozen senators and has the support of 50 House members. Some Democrats in the group suggested voting on the bill even though it doesn’t have a top Democratic priority of state and local aid.
Airline shares rose Tuesday following two days of losses, with a Standard & Poor’s index of nine industry stocks climbing 2.1% at 1:56 p.m. in New York. The index had tumbled 30% this year through Monday, while the S&P 500 gained 13%.
Carriers are losing more than two-thirds of passengers compared with 2019 levels due to Covid-19 and cut tens of thousands of workers after initial government assistance aimed at paying salaries expired on Oct. 1.
Calls to extend the aid from both Republicans and Democrats failed as pre-election partisan disagreements over how to structure a new package led it to founder. Supporters stripped out controversial elements that had held up previous packages in their latest attempt.
A summary of the proposal released on Monday said it would extend the previous payroll aid through March 31. An aid package passed a year earlier provided $25 billion for passenger carriers and $3 billion for their subcontractors.
That money was to pay for payroll and benefits, and airlines that accepted it had to agree not to cut jobs as well as other concessions.
The bill also includes $4 billion in funding for airports, including airport businesses; $8 billion for bus, school transport and ferry industries; $15 billion for public transit systems; and $1 billion for Amtrak.
In the original pandemic package, more than $70 billion was allotted for loans and payroll assistance to airlines, airports and related businesses.
This article originally appeared on Bloomberg.