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Pelosi Asks Airlines To Delay Furloughs and Layoffs; Says Aid Deal Is Near

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday asked airlines to put a hold on furloughs and firings, saying that an agreement on a deal to provide another $25 billion in aid was “imminent.”

Image: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Source:

By David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday asked airlines to put a hold on furloughs and firings, saying that agreement on a deal to provide another $25 billion in aid for the struggling sector was “imminent.”

American Airlines and United Airlines began laying off 32,000 workers this week after a deadline passed with no new help from Washington, but told staff they would reverse course if lawmakers reached a deal on COVID-19 relief.

But a final deal does not appear likely until next week after the House of Representatives failed to act on a request to unanimously pass a standalone measure to aid the airlines.

An additional hurdle remains the Senate, where at least one Republican is still opposed to the airline bailout. It is possible the Senate may not return as scheduled next week after Senator Mike Lee disclosed Friday he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

“As relief for airline workers is being advanced, the airline industry must delay these devastating job cuts,” Pelosi said in a statement.

She said the initiative was focused on keeping workers on payroll so they can maintain training and certification requirements and would either come through House bipartisan standalone legislation or a comprehensive negotiated relief bill.

American Airlines on Friday said, “As promised we will reverse our furlough process and recall any impacted team members if the Payroll Support Program is extended in the next few days.”

Representative Peter DeFazio, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, failed on Friday to win approval of the standalone assistance measure under unanimous consent.

Republicans “killed this legislation,” DeFazio said angrily, hitting a lectern. “These people’s lives are at stake.”

The House is to return to session Tuesday, and the Senate could take up a standalone measure 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 airline relief package from being approved in the chamber.

The turnaround follows aggressive lobbying by airline workers, who have bombarded lawmakers with calls, emails and letters demanding an extension of payroll support.

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 the carriers not eliminate jobs before Oct. 1. The package included $25 billion in government loans.

U.S. airlines have tapped capital markets to shore up liquidity as they collectively burn about $5 billion of cash a month and have argued for another $25 billion in federal payroll aid to maintain their workforce and meet demand as the economy rebounds.

Passenger traffic continues to hover around 30% of 2019 levels as the pandemic upends the travel industry.

Reporting by David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski; Editing by David Gregorio, Steve Orlofsky and Leslie Adler.


Source: Reuters

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