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What the Senate stimulus means for airlines

Senate reaches deal on $2 trillion economic lifeline

As record numbers of Americans opt out of flying amid coronavirus fears, the nation's airlines are poised to receive much of the relief they've been seeking in the bill the Senate is voting on soon. The Senate bill also offers aid for Amtrak, which has also seen a precipitous decline in passengers.

The vote comes as the Transportation Security Administration screened the lowest number of passengers on record Tuesday — barely 279,000 people. On the same day last year, TSA screened 2.2 million people. 

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has called the current crisis even worse for the airline industry than September 11, 2001, and President Trump has vowed to help the nation's airlines recover, anticipating a  return to normal levels of travel.

"We're going to back the airlines, 100%," Mr. Trump said earlier this month.

The Senate bill provides the following grants and loans for airlines: 

  • $25 billion in grants for passenger airlines, to be used solely to pay workers through September;
  • $4 billion in grants for cargo airlines solely to be used to pay workers through September; 
  • $25 billion in loans or loan guarantees for passenger airlines;
  • $4 billion in loans or loan guarantees for cargo airlines;
  • $3 billion to pay airline and airport contractors; and
  • $10 billion for airports, as projected losses continue to grow by billions of dollars.

The legislation also caps executive pay and severance for two years, and prohibits companies from paying a dividend or executing stock buybacks for at least a year. 

Amtrak is also set to receive aid, as its ridership dwindles. The Senate bill provides Amtrak $1.01 billion in grants. That means:

  • $492 million in grants for the Northeast Corridor, meaning Acela will continue to operate; and
  • $526 million in grants for the broader national network "to prepare for, and respond to coronavirus."

— Kris Van Kleave and Kathryn Watson contributed to this report. 

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