NBAA has applauded guidance from the Department of the Treasury, ensuring that qualifying passenger air carriers, including many small charter operators in NBAA's membership, have more flexible access to the Payroll Support Program contained in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Through this programme, air carriers can apply for support to continue paying employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the debate on the CARES Act, NBAA led a significant effort to ensure that general aviation air carriers, such as FAR Part 135 operators, were eligible for this relief. NBAA's effort led to the inclusion of general aviation in crucial provisions of the CARES Act.
The new guidance provided by the Treasury Department recognises the critical role general aviation air carriers play in the nation's transportation system, and states that operators receiving less than $100 million of payroll assistance are not required to provide financial instruments to the government.
Air carriers receiving payroll support must meet minimum service requirements, limit any share buybacks, follow executive compensation limits and refrain from involuntary furloughs; however, the provision of financial instruments to the government as appropriate compensation is no longer required.
In a March 31 letter to Secretary Mnuchin, NBAA explained that initial guidance on the payroll support programme presented challenges for general aviation businesses, as specific requirements were structured for the major scheduled airlines. The additional guidance issued today responds directly to these concerns, and provides essential flexibility for general aviation air carriers seeking payroll support.
The Treasury Department noted that the majority of payroll support requests received from small air carriers are for less than $10 million, and that funds will be available promptly upon approval of their applications.
“We appreciate the significant efforts of Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Transportation Secretary Chao to understand the unique financial challenges of general aviation air carriers and provide additional flexibility while ensuring that taxpayers are properly compensated,” says president and CEO Ed Bolen. “These companies are often small and mid-sized businesses, which support jobs and economic investment in their local communities.”
In other news, NBAA has today joined with five other general aviation groups to request that the US Congress implement temporary relief from federal excise taxes on fuel for non-commercial general aviation operators, as was recently granted to commercial operators under the CARES Act.
Specifically, NBAA and the other groups requested suspension until January 1, 2021, the same timeframe granted to commercial operators, of the 21.9 cents per gallon tax on jet fuel, 19.4 cents per gallon tax on aviation gasoline and 14.1 cents per gallon surtax on qualified fractional aircraft operations.
Temporary fuel tax relief would provide a valuable incentive to preserve jobs at thousands of GA small businesses and help bolster traffic to small community airports, which have seen their operations and fuel sales decline by more than 50% across the country as GA flying has dropped by nearly 60%, noted NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen.
“General aviation is a vital part of our nation's aviation ecosystem,” he continued. “In addition to supporting flights at smaller airports around our country, temporary suspension of federal excise taxes for GA operators would help to preserve jobs, thus ensuring that our industry is ready and able to promptly resume flying once this crisis passes.”
In the letter sent April 15 to U.S. House and Senate leadership, the associations also noted the important role GA and non-commercial business aviation pilots have played throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in providing critical lift for medical supplies, personnel and patients.
“In addition to connecting small communities without airline service, general aviation has a proven track record of providing humanitarian assistance,” the letter reads. “Recently, our industry facilitated the delivery of one million protective face masks and more than half a million COVID-19 test kits from China. Other operators are using aircraft to transport medical supplies around New York and assist with the logistics of moving medical equipment around the world.”
Other groups signing onto the letter include the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA); Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA); General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA); Helicopter Association International (HAI); and National Air Transportation Association (NATA).
The association urges members to use NBAA's Contact Congress resource to contact their elected officials and explain that fuel tax relief will help general aviation businesses in their recovery. *
NBAA has also unveiled a first-of-its-kind partnership to pair the assets available through the association's Humanitarian Emergency Response Operator (HERO) database with the COVID-19 coordination capabilities of the American Hospital Association (AHA).
Bolen says: “Business aviation is uniquely positioned to provide assistance to the citizens, companies and communities grappling with the COVID-19 crisis. Our HERO database will connect supplies and services with hospitals across the country, including those in small towns and rural communities. We thank the American Hospital Association for coordinating with us to ensure we reach the people most in need.
“As the women and men in America's hospitals and health systems heroically fight COVID-19 on behalf of their patients and communities, the hospital field is exploring all options to increase production and distribution of much needed personal protective equipment,” said Michelle Hood, AHA executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Through this unique partnership with NBAA, we will be able to further these efforts to keep our health care professionals safe and protected as they deliver care on the front lines.”
In operation since 2005, the NBAA HERO database aggregates data about the people, aircraft and other resources available for disaster response mobilisation efforts. The HERO database was instrumental in relief efforts for the 2010 Haiti earthquake; Hurricanes Dorian, Michael and Florence; Superstorm Sandy and other crises. The Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency and Red Cross have worked with NBAA to coordinate HERO database assets, as have a host of aviation humanitarian relief groups.