US COVID-relief legislation update: What it means for the helicopter industry

John Shea Top Story

On Monday, Jul. 27, 2020, Senate Republicans proposed a new round of economic relief for the US economy in a bill titled the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act. The $1 trillion coronavirus relief proposal serves as the Senate majority’s response to the much-broader $3 trillion HEROES Act, which passed earlier this summer in the House.

Trump administration officials and Democrat congressional leaders seem to be making modest progress on the next COVID-19 relief bill after more than a week of talks. But key issues remain, including unemployment insurance, schools reopening, and state and local aid.

The HEALS Act is actually a collection of bills introduced by several Republican senators. That collection of bills and their respective section-by-section summaries have been posted in HAI’s Legislative Action Center (LAC). There, HAI members can also access summaries of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), aviation funding, and tax incentives sections of the HEALS Act.

The legislation modifying PPP that was included in the HEALS Act allows qualifying businesses to obtain a second PPP loan and would provide an additional $190 billion in funding to the program, in addition to making a number of program changes.

The CARES Act included the Payroll Support Program (PSP), which provided $25 billion in payroll assistance to US air carriers, along with $4 billion for cargo carriers and $3 billion for airport contractors. The HEALS Act does not include new PSP funding for air carriers.

However, a majority of House lawmakers, including House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), signed a letter calling for a six-month extension of the PSP, which is scheduled to expire Sep. 30, 2020. The letter, made public on Monday, was signed by 223 House members: 195 Democrats and 28 Republicans. On Aug. 5, they were joined by some of their Senate colleagues: 16 Republican senators, led by Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, submitted a letter to leadership supporting the extension.

HAI supports an extension of the PSP as our industry continues to feel the effects of the economic disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic. We have been advocating for funding for helicopter air carriers since the program’s inception and will continue to do so.

On Aug. 3, HAI sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin explaining the challenges some of our members have experienced in accessing the direct lending program authorized under Section 4003 of the CARES Act and administered by the Department of the Treasury. With expanding state-level restrictions related to the COVID pandemic, business travel has not recovered, and the Section 4003 loan program would provide much-needed support to retain employees and continue operations.

Negotiators aims to have the details of a compromise on the COVID relief bill worked out by Aug. 7. However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told her Democrat colleagues on a conference call that she sees talks running into next week, when both chambers are scheduled to be out of session. If that is the case, it is possible the House and Senate will push back their respective recesses and extend the current sessions in Washington.

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