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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