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Springfield City Council members last night unanimously approved a nearly $9.3 million grant for the Springfield-Branson National Airport as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
The federal funding is part of $10 billion allocated nationwide for airports in the coronavirus relief bill. Disclosed in April, the funding required council’s approval.
Brian Weiler, director of aviation, told council members the Springfield-Branson National Airport board plans to use a portion of the funding in the next fiscal year to help offset revenue losses in parking, car rentals and concessions. He also cited plans to cover debt payments on the terminal and employee salaries and benefits.
One of the conditions of accepting the federal aid is continued employment of at least 90% of an airport’s workforce through the end of 2020, Weiler said. He noted there were no plans to lay off any of the local organization’s 96 full-time employees.
The airport recorded a daily passenger drop of 93% year-over-year in April, Weiler said. Flight activity was coming off a record year of nearly 1.2 million passengers in 2019, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
“We are, in May, starting to see slow but steady increases,” Weiler said. “There is no doubt, though, this is going to be many months and likely years to fully recover from that.”
Airport spokesperson Kent Boyd said in an email following the council meeting that it’s too early to outline how much of the funding will be allocated to each of the areas outlined by Weiler. During the meeting, Weiler said the airport has four years to use the CARES Act funding.
“The airport entered the crisis in a good financial condition and right now looks like we’ll have enough income to meet operating expenses,” Boyd said. “The spending of the grant money is something that will be figured out over time as we get a better handle on the financial impact of the [COVID-19] crisis.”
Boyd said the airport had not determined the amount of revenue losses by deadline because it analyzes its revenue and expenses on a fiscal year basis. The fiscal year runs through June 30. He noted the financial impact of the crisis will play out over the coming months and years. Boyd said through February, the airport's operating revenue was running ahead of budget by 10% but, as of April, is now ahead of budget by 2.5%.
The aviation industry has suffered a significant blow worldwide amid the coronavirus pandemic as travel has nearly come to a halt. The Airports Council International, a global aviation association, reports the decline in airport revenues worldwide is estimated to be $39.2 billion in the second quarter and more than $97 billion for the year.
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