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US DOT Announces Nearly $2 Billion Grant Program for Airports

It’s not just large airports to receive funds; smaller GA airports are also part of the Airport COVID relief program. (InsightPhotography/Pixabay/)

The US Department of Transportation is making 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. The program is funded under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020, and is available to more than 3,000 commercial service, reliever, and publicly-owned general-aviation airports in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems.

Under this new Airport Coronavirus Response Grant Program, primary commercial service airports with more than 10,000 annual passenger enplanements will share $1.75 billion, in a similar way to how they currently receive Airport Improvement Program (AIP) entitlement funds. These funds will be available to provide relief from rent while helping to keep jobs, pay operational expenses, and give rent relief to airport concessions along with paying for costs related to combating the spread of pathogens at the airport.

Non-primary commercial service and general aviation airports will share $45 million based on their airport categories, such as National, Regional, Local, and Basic. Of that $45 million, airports that participate in the FAA Contract Tower Program will divide $5 million equally.

“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 US secretary of transportation Pete Buttigieg. “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 funds are made possible through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation Act, 2021. The funds are coming directly from the US Treasury’s General Fund to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with FAA’s Office of Airports administering these grant funds to airports, with no local match contribution required.

One stipulation of the program’s funds is that while they can technically be used for new airport development projects, any development-related costs must be associated with combating the spread of pathogens at the airport. Examples of eligible development would be replacing or upgrading a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system; reconfiguring the terminal to accommodate increased social distancing, or reconfiguring terminal space or other facilities to accommodate health screening.

Other specific requirements of the Airport Coronavirus Response Grant Program are that recipients are subject to the requirements of 49 U.S.C. 50101, which includes addendums for “Buy American” requirements for all projects. Also, each Airport Coronavirus Response Grant Program grant agreement will include a special condition that the airport sponsor implement a policy requiring all persons wear a mask at all times while in all public areas of the airport property, except to the extent exempted under those requirements, in accordance with the CDC Order and TSA Security Directives.

The deadline to apply for the program’s grants is June 30, 2021. The FAA website has further information about the Airport Coronavirus Response Grant Program including the required Federal form SF 424, Application for Federal Assistance.

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