Airlines set for $32 billion in cash aid to keep workers, clearing hurdle for coronavirus bill

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Digital signs in the baggage claim area at McCarran International Airport display guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on protection from the coronavirus on March 19, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ethan Miller | Getty Images

Lawmakers are moving ahead with more than $30 billion in cash aid for airlines, according to people briefed on the matter and a draft of the bill, clearing a hurdle for a Senate vote on a massive stimulus bill aimed at helping the economy through the coronavirus pandemic.

Airlines have been crippled by a sharp drop in travel demand due to coronavirus and drastic measures to contain it. Carriers and labor unions pleaded with lawmakers for a mix of both cash grants and loans totaling $58 billion, while Republican senators had originally proposed aid in the form of only loans.

A draft of the Senate bill, which was viewed by CNBC, showed grants of $25 billion for passenger airlines, $4 billion for cargo carriers and $3 billion for contractors, in exchange for maintaining workers. The bill states that these employers must “refrain from conducting involuntary furloughs or reducing pay rates and benefits” through Sept. 30, 2020.

It also includes $25 billion in loans for passenger airlines and $4 billion for cargo airlines.

Among conditions for the aid include a pause on share repurchase agreements and dividend payments to investors.

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