On March 27, Congress officially responded to the aviation maintenance industry’s pleas for economic assistance in the face of pandemic-related air travel disruptions. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act passed this week by the Senate and House directs specific relief to repair stations and their employees.
Since President Trump’s national emergency declaration on March 13, ARSA has been working to provide resources to help its members weather the storm. Central to that effort is a campaign to urge Congress to provide short-term help to the maintenance industry. Association members from around the country weighed in with their representatives and senators in support of ARSA’s call for grants and loans to help repair stations meet payroll. That unprecedented grassroots campaign has yielded significant results.
The relief legislation contains several provisions aimed at providing aircraft maintainers with liquidity to avoid layoffs. Sec. 4003(b)(1) of the bill sets aside $25 billion for loans to repair stations, airlines and ticket agents. Aviation maintenance companies that are located at airports and perform work for air carriers should also be able to benefit from a $3 billion financial assistance program for airline contractors and subcontractors (Secs. 4111 to 4120).
The aviation provisions aside, the legislation provides broad relief for individuals in the form of direct payments and forgivable loans to help small businesses and companies with 500 or fewer employees meet payroll and keep businesses operating (Sec. 1102). The overwhelming majority of repair stations are small and medium-size entities that will be able to tap into those resources.
The effort on Capitol Hill to provide maintenance industry relief was led by Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), “While ARSA is grateful to all the members of Congress and staffers who’ve worked tirelessly in recent weeks to craft the bill, Senators Inhofe and Duckworth deserve special recognition,” ARSA Executive Vice President Christian A. Klein said. “Thanks to them, there are 250,000 men and women working in the maintenance sector – including 12,000 employees in Oklahoma and 7,000 in Illinois – who can rest a little bit easier knowing that financial help to keep their companies afloat is on the way.”
Once President Trump signs the bill, all eyes will turn to the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration, which must implement the business relief provisions. Assuming the executive branch meets the deadlines established in the bill, the programs could be up and running in as little as two weeks.
The association encourages aviation community stakeholders to stay tuned for updates and resources on its “anti-viral” webpage at arsa.org/anti-viral-measures.