By Dean Franks, senior vice president, congressional relations, ARTBA

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) March 22 released a revised third stimulus proposal to help people and businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Negotiations on the package are expected to continue late into Sunday night and possibly early Monday morning.

While progress has been made, Senate Democrats have yet to sign off. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said her caucus may introduce their own legislation if unsatisfied with the Senate’s version. The first procedural vote of the evening failed to get the 60 votes needed to pass.  McConnell is aiming to move the package to the House by Monday.

The cost and scope of the bill have expanded since Friday, March 20.  The latest version includes changes that make it easier to invest in waterway projects and provides significant resources for airports and mass transit systems across the country:

  • $10 billion to be distributed through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP).
    • $2 billion, with 100 percent federal share, for traditional AIP capital investment construction projects.
    • $500 million to help airports meet their non-federal share requirements for their FY 2020 AIP grants.
    • $7.4 billion for commercial airports to use for operating expenses to help offset the impacts of the coronavirus downturn in airport business.
    • $100 million in aid for general aviation airports
  • Budgetary provision that would deem all future expenditures from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) as “off-budget” or “mandatory” spending.  This would make it easier to spend down the $9 billion surplus of the HMTF and ensure future revenues are invested in port, harbor and waterway infrastructure projects in a timely manner.
  • Over $21 billion distributed for public transportation programs:
    • $16 billion for urbanized area public transit formula grants.
    • $4 billion for rural areas mass transit formula grants.
    • $492 million for the “Northeast Corridor” Amtrak network.
    • $526 million for the national Amtrak network.
    • All public transit and Amtrak funds are for operational and other expenses related to coronavirus downturn and recovery efforts.

Other provisions of interest to ARTBA members include:

  • $349 billion to help businesses with less than 500 employees avert layoffs and meet payroll obligations.
  • $58 billion in loans and loan guarantees for the airline and air freight industry.
  • Suspension of aviation fuel and ticket taxes through the end of 2020.
  • Delay of payment of employer payroll taxes from date of enactment of the bill through the end of 2020.
  • Half of what’s owed would be paid by the end of 2021 and the remaining by the end of 2022.
  • Changes to the treatment of net operating losses and various other tax changes aimed at improving cash flow and liquidity amidst the pandemic.
  • Direct payments made to individuals and families in the form of tax rebate checks.
  • Other assistance for various industries, including hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

ARTBA will continue to keep you informed of this fast-moving situation.