With CARES Act Passed, Industry Looks to What's Next

 - March 30, 2020, 12:22 PM

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

In the wake of the $2 trillion relief package passed last week, aviation advocates are continuing to work with U.S. lawmakers for further assistance for aviation businesses, particularly those that did not qualify for direct assistance marked for air carriers and other specified organizations.

The bill provided upwards of $80 billion in loans and employee payroll and benefits grants for air carriers, including Part 135 operators, as well cargo operators, maintenance providers, firms with a “national security" interest (such as Boeing), and airline fuel handlers, among others. In addition, $10 billion more was marked for airports, with $100 million set aside for general aviation facilities. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act included billions more in general assistance and employee grants.

Implementation of much of this still needs to be sorted out, and some of the stipulations leave open many questions—including a possibility the Treasury Department could take a stake in certain companies. In addition, there are stock buy-back and other limitations.

While pleased about the provisions that were afforded to the aviation industry, the National Air Transportation Association said it is discussing possible additional assistance future relief bills. “The bulk of the relief provided by the act aimed at aviation was written with commercial airlines in mind and, thus, imposes a number of conditions on the federal assistance that aviation businesses might find untenable,” NATA said.

“We are disappointed that the immediate relief needed for aviation businesses was largely left out of the act,” added NATA President and CEO Timothy Obitts. “While these businesses may be eligible for the other small business support provided in the act, the authors failed to recognize that aviation businesses in the U.S.  support 1.2 million jobs and $247 billion in annual economic activity.”

NATA cited as an example a measure that provides a tax suspension through the remainder of the year for only commercial carriers.

Despite these concerns, aviation organizations are largely lauding the package as an important roadmap to recovery, particularly the general provisions for small businesses.

“In the face of an extraordinary public health crisis, the Administration and Congress assembled a blueprint to aid the American people, our employees, and the industries that sustain our national and economic security,” said Aerospace Industries Association president and CEO Eric Fanning. “For aerospace and defense, this legislation offers tools and incentives that can help provide some support and stability during this crisis.”

“The loans, grants, and tax relief provisions of this bill can directly benefit many of HAI’s members, especially our numerous small businesses,” added James Viola, president and CEO of the Helicopter Association International.

AOPA president Mark Baker praised the inclusion of money for general aviation airports, saying, “These airports provide critical services to many communities and account for millions of operations each year, while also doing distinguished service during emergencies including natural disasters.”

“On balance, this bill is helpful for general aviation,” NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen further said, also citing the general aviation airport funding. NBAA has assembled a resource on its website outlining key provisions and how they may affect operators and aviation businesses.