U.S. awards airports $10 billion in grants amid travel falloff

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FILE PHOTO: Canceled flights are seen on an airport screen in New Orleans, Louisiana U.S., April 4, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Transportation Department on Tuesday awarded nearly $10 billion to U.S. airports struggling with a massive falloff in travel demand because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Congress approved the money late last month and the department has previously awarded $25 billion to public transit systems and $1 billion to U.S. passenger railroad Amtrak.

The awards include $377 million for Chicago’s two major airports, $338 million for Atlanta, $323 for Los Angeles, $299 million for Dallas-Fort Worth, $295 million for New York’s two major airports, $255 million for San Francisco, $206 million for Miami, $147 million for Newark, New Jersey; $143 million for Washington-Dulles and $142 million for Detroit.

“This $10 billion in emergency resources will help fund the continued operations of our nation’s airports during this crisis and save workers’ jobs,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a statement.

Airports can use the funds for capital expenditures, operating expenses including payroll and utilities, and debt payments.

Airports have warned they expect a loss of at least $13.9 billion this year as travel demand has fallen by 95%. Some had said they might not be able to pay service on airport debt without government assistance.

The head of Airports Council International-North America, Kevin Burke, said on Tuesday, the “grants will help airports offset some of the financial damage from the abrupt, unexpected drop in air travel that resulted from necessary precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19.”

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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