By David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski
WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that agreement was “imminent” on a deal to provide another $25 billion in government assistance to keep tens of thousands of airline workers on the job for another six months.
Pelosi said the House will either pass “bipartisan stand-alone legislation or achieve this as part of a comprehensive negotiated relief bill.” She called on airlines to hold off on furloughs and firings “as an agreement for relief for airline workers is being reached.”
Airline stocks jumped on the news.
Congressional aides expected the House to pass a standalone measure to aid airlines later on Friday that the Senate could take up next week if a broader coronavirus deal is not reached.
Senate aides said Thursday that only a single Republican senator had been holding up the new bailout from being approved in the U.S. Senate.
Congress in March approved a $50 billion bailout for the passenger airline industry, with $25 billion in mostly cash grants to fund payroll costs with the condition that they not eliminate jobs before Oct. 1. It also included $25 billion in government loans.
American Airlines and United Airlines began laying off 32,000 workers on Wednesday after a deadline passed with no new help from Washington, but told staff they would reverse this if lawmakers reach a deal on COVID-19 relief.
U.S. airlines are collectively burning about $5 billion of cash a month as passenger traffic has stalled at around 30% of 2019 levels. After tapping capital markets, they say they have enough liquidity to last them at least 12 months at that rate.
They have argued for another $25 billion in federal payroll aid to maintain their workforce and meet demand as the economy rebounds. Without the money, flight networks could further shrink, hampering their revenue power and shortening their liquidity runway.
(Reporting by David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski; Editing by David Gregorio)