Juneau International Airport, Alaska (Photo by Gillfoto via Flickr / CC)

Billions of dollars are headed to rural areas to keep airports, transit stations, and ports open as part of the federal government’s stimulus package in the face of Covid-19 business shutdowns.

Signed into law on March 27, 2020, the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides financial support to corporations, small businesses and individuals facing economic shortfalls as states across the country order social distancing and stay-at-home orders to protect residents from the coronavirus. 

But within that package, billions of dollars have been allocated to keep airports, transit stations and ports open to not only ensure workers stay employed but also to make sure transportation across the country stays open.

On Tuesday, April 14, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced that $10 billion would be given to airports across the country to help pay for salaries and other operational expenses. The financing will be provided through grants from the Federal Aviation Administration and can be used for airport capital expenditures, airport operating expenses and airport debt payments.

“This $10 billion in emergency resources will help fund the continued operations of our nation’s airports during this crisis and save workers’ jobs,” Chao said in a statement.

According to the FAA, the funding will be spread out across the country. In California, more than $1.1 billion in aid will go to 188 airports. And the amounts vary – from just $1,000 to Independence Airport in Independence, CA to more than $323 million for Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles.

In Alaska, whose rural airports are critical to transportation in and around the state, more than 250 airports would receive $124,179,622 in total.

The airport funds join another $25 billion in money for transit systems and Amtrak. Chao announced earlier in April that part of the CARES Act allocated $25 billion to cover the operating expenses, maintenance or administrative leave for transit personnel of transit systems. Of the money, $22.7 billion was allocated to urban areas, while $2.2 billion was allocated to rural areas.

Another $1 billion was allocated to Amtrak to ensure continuity of services.

“We know that many of our Nation’s public transportation systems are facing extraordinary challenges and these funds will go a long way to assisting our transit industry partners in battling Covid-19,” said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams. “These federal funds will support operating assistance to transit agencies, including those in large urban areas as well as pay transit workers across the country not working because of the public health emergency.” 

In Nevada, more than $22 million was allocated just to rural transit services. Those federal funds will cover the operating expenses of 17 rural transit systems from March 1, 2020, until the end of the federal fiscal year. As there is no expiration date for the funding provided in the CARES Act, the Nevada Department of Transportation said it will continue to use those funds into 2021 and 2022, or until they run out.

In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson said in a press release that the Missouri Department of Transportation would use their $61.7 million in grant fund for operating expenses for the state’s 30 rural transit agencies, including the new Bourbon Regional Port Authority Ferry Boat Operator and the nonprofit OATS Inc., a transit services system in 87 Missouri counties that provides transportation services for those who are disabled, have health issues or are senior citizens.

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