The U.S. Department of Transportation said this month it provided guidance on the nearly $2 billion in federal grant funding available to help airports affected by COVID-19 under the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Airport Coronavirus Response Grant Program.
“President Biden has made it a priority to deliver immediate relief to our transportation sectors and their workers, ensuring they can continue to provide essential services through this pandemic and beyond,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in a press release. “Today’s announcement is one of many steps we are taking to protect the health of America’s travelers and workers, while keeping our nation’s airport operations and related small businesses up and running.”
The program is funded under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act passed in late 2020 and available to more than 3,000 commercial service, reliever and publicly owned general-aviation airports in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems. Airports must apply for the grants by June 30, 2021.
Of the total amount available for airports, the bill provided $1.75 billion for commercial service and certain cargo airports. Funds will be distributed based on a modified AIP apportionment run. The cargo set-aside will remain intact, and there will be no maximum grant amount or PFC turnback.
The funds can be used to help keep people safe and in jobs by reimbursing operational expenses, debt service payments and costs related to combating the spread of pathogens at the airport. The program also includes money for rent relief to airport concessions and to support FAA contract towers for items such as cleaning and sanitizing facilities affected by COVID-19 cases.
The bill also provided $200 million to primary airports based on enplanements “to provide relief from rents and minimum annual guarantees to on-airport car rental, on-airport parking, and in-terminal airport concessions.”
Airport sponsors will have to submit a concession-relief grant application to FAA; this is a separate application from the one necessary to obtain grant funds that are available directly for airport use. After applying, the airport will develop a relief plan on how they plan to use their allocation and conduct a consultation with their concession stakeholders. The relief plan will be submitted to FAA for review and acceptance before payment and reimbursement will be processed.