White House Ready to Extend Payroll Relief for Airline Employees

September 18, 2020 Updated: September 18, 2020

With the first round of payroll support ending Sept. 30 and the furlough of tens of thousands of airline workers imminent, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows urged Lawmakers on Thursday to pass a bill extending payroll grants for airline employees for another six months.

“We’ve got tens of thousands of people that are about to be laid off,” Meadows said during an interview Thursday morning on Fox News. “So, if nothing more, let’s go ahead and put that package on the floor and pass that.”

Meadows’s remarks Thursday come as Democrats and the White House remain in a stalemate over the next CCP virus pandemic relief bill which would provide payroll relief for thousands in the industry. The March Cares Act appropriated $25 billion in payroll support for airlines, with the stipulation that they couldn’t enact furloughs or layoffs until Oct. 1.

If Congress does not act immediately to pass another payroll relief package, American airlines has said that 19,000 workers will be furloughed, United Airlines said they will have to lay off more than 13,000 workers, Alaska has estimated about 4,200 furloughs, and Delta could let go of more than 1,900 pilots.

Meanwhile, on Thursday American Airlines CEO Doug Parker spoke to reporters outside the White House after meeting with Meadows.

“Without action, they’re going to be furloughed on Oct. 1, and it’s not fair. It’s not fair to them, it’s not fair to our country. There’s enormous bipartisan support for an extension of the payroll support program, which would keep those people employed,” Parker said.

“So, we’re just here to plead with everyone involved to get to a COVID relief package before Oct. 1. On Oct. 1 those people are furloughed, and we just want to make people understand that without that, that’s absolutely what’s going to happen, and small communities will lose service.

United Airlines Chief Executive Scott Kirby and Southwest Airlines Chief Executive Gary Kelly also attended the meeting. Kelly told reporters the initial payroll support plan “didn’t go far enough and long enough.”

The CEOs are asking for another $25 billion to provide sufficient relief for the coming six months.

Meadows told reporters that “if Speaker Pelosi was willing to move a bill to keep people from being laid off in the airline industry that’s stand-alone, that the president would certainly support it,” referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Meadows said extending the payroll relief for airlines is a small price to pay to keep 30,000 to 50,000 airline workers employed.

The airline executives said they reached out to Pelosi on Thursday and are hopeful she will meet with them to discuss the payroll relief extension.

Trump on Aug. 5 signaled support for renewed aid for airlines. “Well if they need it…I think it’s very important that we keep our airlines going,” Trump said. “We don’t want to lose our airlines.”

In addition, the majority of lawmakers in the House called for a 6-month extension of a payroll aid program to keep airline workers employed through March 31, 2021, according to the Virginia Aviation Dept.

In a July letter, members of the House wrote, “Without an extension of the (payroll support program) before then, hundreds of thousands of airline workers will be fired or furloughed on October 1,” signed by House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, and 223 House members, including 195 Democrats and 28 Republicans.

The Congressman said the layoffs, “will eclipse those of any furloughs the industry has ever seen.”

The Cares Act, the $2 trillion CCP virus pandemic relief package passed by Congress in March included $25 billion in payroll support for passenger airlines, $4 billion for cargo airlines, and $3 billion for contractors.