Days after President Donald Trump abruptly halted negotiations over a new COVID-19 aid package, only to change course and suggest he would support several smaller standalone measures, the likelihood of an individual aid program for airline workers has hit a new snag.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said on Thursday that she would not support a standalone bill for airline aid unless it accompanied a larger support package.
Airlines last week began the process of furloughing over 32,000 workers, with tens of thousands more taking voluntary long-term unpaid leaves of absence. More furloughs are expected in the coming months, and next year.
Carriers were prohibited from furloughing or laying off workers until October 1 under terms of the CARES Act Payroll Support Program (PSP). The $25 billion PSP offered aid for airline workers — passed down through airline payroll — as travel demand fell as much as 97% earlier in the pandemic compared to 2019 levels.
The six-month program was meant to help airlines through the worst of the pandemic, but a large-scale recovery in demand has not happened. Demand remains stagnant, down by roughly 70% compared to 2019 levels.
Despite bipartisan support for extending airline aid, House Democrats, Senate Republicans, and the Trump administration have been unable to reach an agreement over a larger pandemic relief package.
Democrats have been generally opposed to passing stand-alone bills, arguing that such an approach would leave out relief in some needed areas, including childcare and funding for state and local governments.
Some House Democrats, led by House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), did try to push a standalone airline support bill on the House floor on Friday, but were blocked by Republican objections.
The Trump administration has pushed a $1.6 trillion aid offer. House Democrats initially insisted on a $3.5 billion package, before passing a lower $2.2 trillion aid bill last week, which included airline aid.
On Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned of a weak US recovery without sufficient government relief, and argued that there would be no problems created by providing too much aid.