WASHINGTON D.C. (NEXSTAR) — With air travel almost non-existant right now, the federal government is spending billions of dollars in emergency money to keep airports from shutting down, and airport workers employed.
Planes on the tarmac at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport sit idle.
Check-in counters and concourses across the country are ghost towns.
“With that kind of traffic drop, revenue cannot be collected to keep those airports viable,” said Dan Elwell, FAA Deputy Administrator.
Elwell said with air travel down 90 percent, more than 3,000 U.S. airports will soon get emergency federal money.
“This is a financial bridge to keep these airports viable,” he said.
In total, $10 billion allotted through the CARES Act will let airports large and small keep their doors open and employees and vendors paid.
“We have used a formula to ensure that we get this money as quickly as possible to every airport that needs it,” Elwell said.
Typically, federal aviation grant money comes with strict rules about how it can be used, but not this time.
“Those restrictions are lifted so that airports can use this money for purposes they would not normally use federal airport funds for,” Elwell said.
The grants include tens of millions of dollars for airports in Indianapolis, Tampa, and Chicago — $52 million to Indianapolis International, $81 million to Tampa International, $294 million for Chicago O’Hare, $46 million for Cleveland-Hopkins International, and $22 million for Charleston International, plus hundreds of millions for smaller, regional airports across all 50 states.
“But it’s just as important to the rural communities that are going to receive this aid as it is for the hotspots,” Elwell said.
The FAA says airports can also use the money to pay down debt.