Trump Considers Executive Action to Help Airline Workers Facing Furloughs

August 26, 2020 Updated: August 26, 2020

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Wednesday that if deadlocked lawmakers can’t reach a relief deal to help ailing airline workers, President Donald Trump may step in with executive action.

“If Congress is not going to work, this president is going to get to work and solve some problems,” Meadows said Wednesday at an event hosted by Politico. “Hopefully we can help the airlines and keep some of those employees from being furloughed.”

Meadows said he believed a negotiated deal on a new relief package would be needed to provide aid to airline staff but, failing that, the Trump administration is “looking at other executive actions.”

“If you’ve got airline workers in your district, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, you need to call the speaker or the leader and let them know that it’s a priority,” Meadows said, adding, “it’s all about keeping people in jobs during this V-shaped recovery.”

Talks on a fifth relief bill remain stalled on Capitol Hill amid deep divisions with Democrats. At the White House, Trump suggested that one main holdup is the amount of money Democrats want for cash-strapped states and cities, which he dismissed as “bailouts.”

“They are still rejecting any more relief for anyone unless they get a flood of demands with no real relationship to COVID-19,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), in remarks earlier this month.

All indications are talks will not resume in full until Congress resumes in September, while Trump’s executive actions seem to have provided a temporary reprieve, offering $300 in jobless benefits and other aid. In a bid to bolster the economy and reduce tax burdens on American workers amid the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, Trump signed an executive order this month that defers employee payroll taxes, which he said he would seek to turn into a permanent tax cut if he wins reelection.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said in remarks at Tuesday’s Republican National Convention that the Trump administration is looking to introduce more tax cuts to spur investment and create jobs as the country continues its fitful rebound from a deep recession.

“Now, looking ahead, more tax cuts and regulatory rollback will be in store—payroll tax cuts for higher wages, income tax cuts for the middle class, capital gains tax cuts for investment, productivity, and jobs,” Kudlow said.

It comes after American Airlines announced on Tuesday that when pandemic aid to airlines expires in October, the company plans to slash 19,000 jobs. Breaking the somber news in a letter to employees, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom said, “[t]he one possibility of avoiding these involuntary reductions on Oct. 1 is a clean extension” of the payroll relief that airlines received under the CARES Act. The relief bill’s Payroll Support Program set aside $25 billion in grants to U.S. airlines, strictly for employee compensation. One of the conditions of receiving the aid was that air carriers must wait until Oct. 1 to cut jobs.

Air travel in the United States plunged 95 percent by April, just over a month after the first known case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Washington state in a man who had returned from Wuhan, China. The virus then surged across the country, with a Johns Hopkins tally noting over 5.7 million infections and over 177,000 deaths. As the outbreak dynamics have slowed, passenger traffic has recovered slightly, but remains down 70 percent from a year ago, and carriers say they need less staff.

The COVID-19 crisis has hammered the U.S. labor market, with unemployment at 10.2 percent and around 1 million Americans continuing to file for unemployment each week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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