White House backs $25B airline relief extension amid coronavirus aid talks

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows urged Congress on Thursday to extend payroll grants for airline employees through next March, in order to avoid sweeping furloughs throughout the industry.

He said $25 billion was necessary to provide sufficient relief for six more months, mirroring the amount approved in March that expires Sept. 30. Meadows said he thought it was a small price to pay given the trillion-dollar-plus proposals under discussion, though broader coronavirus relief talks continue to stall.

“Compared to $1.5 trillion, it’s a rather small amount of additional assistance that could potentially keep 30 to 50,000 workers on the payroll,” Meadows said after a meeting with airline executives, who warned of imminent furloughs.

That’s the price tag on a compromise plan floated by the 50-member bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus in the House earlier this week. Democratic committee leaders shot it down as too skimpy, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi has demanded at least $2.2 trillion in relief. Earlier this week she said she’d be open to additional airline assistance as part of a broader relief package, but didn’t offer a dollar figure.

Senate Republicans didn’t include airline aid in their “skinny” $300 billion plan that couldn’t muster the 60 votes needed for cloture last week.

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CEOs of all major U.S. airlines ask White House for $25B in new aid

Sept. 17 (UPI) — The heads of all major U.S. airlines met with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Thursday to ask for more federal aid amid ongoing hardships in the aviation industry.

Attending the meeting with Meadows at the White House were American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, United CEO Scott Kirby, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly, Delta CEO Ed Bastian, Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram, Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden and Airlines For America President Nicholas Calio.

Airlines worldwide have taken significant losses since the pandemic began early this year and virtually all have made cutbacks in some fashion to offset the lost revenues from declines in passenger traffic.

Meadows told the CEOs Thursday President Donald Trump would support $25 billion in additional financial aid for the industry to save thousands of jobs.

U.S. airlines can begin laying off employees on Oct. 1 when a moratorium on job cuts expires, which was attached to the first round of federal funding in the spring.

“I never thought I’d say $25 billion was a small number, but compared to $1.5 trillion, it’s a rather small amount of additional assistance that could potentially keep 30,000 to 50,000 workers on the payroll,” Meadows said. “If we’re going to get something separate prior to that deadline, it’s going to have to happen next week.”

“We had a very good meeting with the chief [of staff],” Kelly said. “The first CARES Act kept this country out of pandemic and I think the only mistake that was made is that it didn’t go far enough and long enough.”

Without further federal aid, American said last month it will cut 19,000 and United said it will dismiss 16,000.

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