This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
House aviation subcommittee chairman Rick Larsen (D-Washington) and Rep. Ron Estes (R-Kansas) jointly introduced a bill in the U.S. House on Monday to establish a cost-share program that would help preserve aviation manufacturing jobs at risk of furloughs during the pandemic. Similar to the bill (S.3705) introduced in the Senate by Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Mark Warner (D-Virginia) in May, the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Act of 2020 (H.R. 8002) would enable federal government assistance for up to 50 percent of compensation for “at-risk” aviation manufacturer employees, as long as the company covers the remaining portion.
Under the program, the Department of Treasury would enter into six-month renewable agreements with manufacturers that would ensure full salaries are maintained for the at-risk employees. Manufacturers must demonstrate that the workers were at risk and must use the federal assistance solely for their compensation. Compensation assistance is limited to 25 percent of the workforce. The program would be available until April 30, 2022.
“This bipartisan bill provides critical relief to help sustain the aerospace supply chain until the nation gets to the other side of the pandemic,” said Larsen, whose legislative district includes Boeing facilities and numerous suppliers. “I am committed to protecting these jobs and supporting the dedicated women and men who keep the supply chain moving during such challenging times.”
"Kansans have built general aviation and commercial airplanes for a century, helping us become the air capital of the world. However, recent groundings and the negative effects of Covid-19 have slowed production rates to record lows, putting thousands of Kansans out of work and jeopardizing our local companies' stability," added Estes, who is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bill. "The Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Act will help keep workers on the payroll and connected with their aviation jobs, which solves the short-term unemployment issue and keeps our skilled workforce here."
Introduced with a half-dozen other cosponsors, the bill immediately drew strong industry support, including from a coalition of five associations representing manufacturers, repair stations, and workers.
“The aviation manufacturing and maintenance industry continues to face stiff headwinds from the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Pete Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, which was among the groups endorsing the bill. “Given that general and commercial aviation are significant contributors to the U.S. economy, it is essential that both industry and government partner together to protect aviation manufacturing and maintenance jobs in this vital sector.”
“Steps taken earlier this year have worked, but more assistance is needed as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to harm people, communities, and economies worldwide,” added Aerospace Industries Association president and CEO Eric Fanning, saying the bill provides “temporary and targeted support.”
Aeronautical Repair Station Association executive v-p Christian Klein called the bill “a lifeline” for an industry that has watched revenues plummet nearly 50 percent and possibly lost nearly a quarter of the workforce in recent months.
Others joining in this support included the National Defense Industrial Association and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
The groups underscored the importance of government assistance to preserving jobs, pointing to a recent study finding that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) alone saved between 1.5 and 3.5 million jobs.