The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) has welcomed the US Senate's passage of a $2 trillion stimulus bill that would grant relief to the nation's aviation industry, including general aviation, as it grapples with the staggering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) has now been passed, after being signed off by President Trump.
NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen pointed to several provisions in the bill that will benefit the GA community, including business aviation. These include additional relief for airports through a $10 billion increase to Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding, with $100 million specially allocated to general aviation airports, in recognition of their critical importance to communities, particularly in times of crisis.
The bill also contains relief from the 7.5 per cent air transportation federal excise tax for general aviation commercial operations, including FAR Part 135 flights, and suspension of the commercial fuel tax until Jan. 1, 2021. NBAA successfully worked to have these measures extended to all GA operators that pay such taxes.
In addition, the CARES Act provides loans and grants to passenger and cargo air carriers, including general aviation commercial operators, such as FAR Part 135 charter providers. For these commercial passenger operators and FAR Part 145 repair stations, $25 billion in direct loans and loan guarantees are available. An additional $25 billion in grants are available to these entities for the continuation of wage payments to workers. NBAA led a general aviation industry letter to lawmakers to ensure that general aviation commercial operators were eligible for these programmes.
Additional loan programmes for small and mid-size businesses are also made available under the measure, and while they are not specific to aviation, they may offer further assistance to the thousands of small and midsize aviation businesses in the industry.
“On balance, this bill is helpful for general aviation,” says Bolen. “The industry clearly made its voice heard in ensuring that the important provisions for general aviation airports, general aviation commercial operators and other small businesses were considered as this legislation was assembled, and we look forward to the bill's passage into law.”
The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) has worked hard and was successful in getting Part 135 certificated charter operators and Part 145 MRO businesses included in the package provided to the airlines. Additionally, FBOs that provide ground handling services to commercial airlines are eligible for some relief. NATA was also successful in obtaining relief from the “ticket tax” and “fuel tax” for Part 135 operators. However, the bulk of relief provided by the act aimed at aviation was written with commercial airlines in mind and, thus, imposes a number of conditions on the recipients of federal assistance that aviation businesses might find untenable.
“We are disappointed that the immediate relief needed for aviation businesses was largely left out of the act,” states NATA president and CEO Timothy Obitts. “While these businesses may be eligible for the other small business support provided in the act, the authors failed to recognise that aviation businesses in the United States support 1.2 million jobs and $247 billion in annual economic activity.
“NATA will continue our fight for additional resources for general aviation businesses. We are already in discussions with Members of Congress about what relief is immediately needed for these businesses to continue to support our nation's important aviation infrastructure.
“Aviation businesses will be a lynchpin in our nation's response to the coronavirus and a critical part of the recovery of the national air space system. These vital businesses help keep aviation moving, and we have to do everything we can to support them.”