The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced Tuesday (June 22) it is allocating nearly $25 million to 65 Arkansas airports as part of $8 billion in COVID-19 relief money that was approved in March. The grants are expected to keep U.S. airport workers employed, construction projects going and help U.S. airports recover from the impacts of the pandemic.
The grant money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that President Joe Biden signed into law on March 11, according to a news release.
The largest commercial airports in the state will receive the majority of the money as the allocation was based on multiple factors, including annual enplanements and airport concessions. Following airports will receive more than $1 million of the money: Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, $10.59 million; Northwest Arkansas National Airport in Highfill, $9.04 million; Fort Smith Regional Airport, $1.74 million; and Texarkana Regional Airport, $1.21 million.
“The Airport Rescue Grants keep workers employed and help the aviation sector recover as more Americans get vaccinated and begin traveling again,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “These grants are part of the administration’s commitment to build back a better and safer transportation system throughout our country.”
The money provides economic relief to eligible commercial service, reliever and general aviation airports. According to the release, the money will help keep people safe and employed by reimbursing operational expenses, debt service payments and costs related to combating the spread of pathogens at the airport. Airports can also use the money to provide rent relief to in-terminal retail and concession companies. The funding requires airports to continue to employ at least 90% of their pre-pandemic employees for those airports that cover a majority of the traveling public.
“The FAA is committed to working with the aviation industry as it recovers from the impacts of the pandemic,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said. “These airport rescue grants provide needed support to our nation’s airports as we recover from the pandemic’s impacts.”
The following are aspects of the Airport Rescue Grants program:
- Primary commercial service airports will share about $6.5 billion based on the number of annual boardings.
- An additional $800 million will be available to primary commercial service airports for providing relief to in-terminal airport concessions from rent and minimum annual guarantees, including $640 million for relief to small concessions and $160 million for relief to large airport concessions.
- Non-primary commercial service and general aviation airports will share $100 million based on their airport categories, such as national, regional, local and basic.
- The remaining money will be used to cover an airport’s cost-share portion on grants through the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program as well as the supplemental discretionary grants. This means airports will likely not have to pay their portion of a given project.