With September 30 Deadline Looming, Cantwell Calls for Action to Save Thousands of Aviation Jobs

As many as 50,000 airline jobs at risk without an extension of the Payroll Support Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the expiration of critical funding for aviation workers looming on September 30, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, called on her colleagues to take action to extend the Payroll Support Program (PSP) today in a speech on the Senate floor.

“I want to speak about the importance of the thousands of workers, including pilots, flight attendants, gate agents, baggage handlers, mechanics, catering workers, and many others who are feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cantwell said. “I believe we should continue to address the very important issues of the health aspects of the pandemic, and the economic impact of the pandemic, but while we're working on developing a vaccine and developing better therapeutics and testing and stopping the spread of this virus, we also need to keep in mind that we do need transportation.”

“Prior to the pandemic, the aviation industry supported nearly 11 million American jobs and put $1.8 trillion to work in our economy, and contributed about 5.2% of our GDP,” Cantwell continued. “When the pandemic hit, we saw a 96% drop in air travel and instantly jeopardized thousands of jobs in this sector… The Payroll Support Program created in the CARES Act administered through the Department of Treasury was designed to compensate aviation workers and preserve their jobs to help protect the essential aspects of aviation and airline services.”

In her remarks, Cantwell spoke about the importance of taking action to reauthorize the program:

“This is critically important because just in a very short period of time, September 30, this program is going to expire. Congress needs to act to extend the program… It was announced that as many as 50,000 airline jobs are at risk if we don't continue the Payroll Support Program. So now is not the time to be uncertain.”

Using examples from states around the country, Cantwell also highlighted what failing to extend the program would mean for thousands of workers:

“Right now in North Carolina the weekly income for a mechanic is only $350 a week in unemployment benefits, a 79% cut in weekly income… When you look at a ramp agent in Georgia, on average a weekly income for a ramp agent is about $850 per week. But, now that any additional weekly benefits have run out, these workers now face a 57% income cut… We know additionally, benefits in Florida, pilots would see a 90% drop in income. Flight attendants a 75% drop. Mechanics an 83% drop. Agents a 68% drop. In Texas we'd see an 85% drop in income, in flight attendants 52% drop, in mechanics a 68% drop. And in agents for ramp work, a 48% drop.”

“I'm calling on my colleagues to set aside our differences and come back to the table and make sure that we are addressing these issues before this major layoff. We still have an opportunity to sustain 950,000 frontline aviation workers. And this is important to helping our economy recover,” Cantwell said.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s speech is available HERE and audio is HERE.