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Pelosi says there’s no standalone aid for airlines without bigger stimulus bill

A JetBlue Airways plane taxis alongside planes from American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines at Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Arlington, Va., Monday, April 6, 2020.

Andre Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

house tenant Nancy Pelosi Thursday said there would be no standalone bill for additional airline aid without a bigger coronavirus stimulus package, another roadblock to additional federal support for the struggling industry that has already laid off thousands of workers.

Pelosi’s comments come two days after the president donald trump halted talks on a national coronavirus package until after the election, but asked for additional help for the airlines, a plan that won bipartisan support.

Last week, US carriers began furloughing more than 33,000 workersthe vast majority of cuts American and United. The terms of the $25 billion support approved by Congress in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March prohibited airlines from furloughing workers until October 1.

The funds were intended to help airlines manage a drop in demand, but a significant rebound in bookings failed to materialize. Airlines and unions have urged lawmakers and the Trump administration to approve an additional $25 billion to preserve jobs through March 2021. American and United have said they will bring workers back if the extra aid is approved .

“It fits with what’s been going on in this process for some time now. It’s huge bipartisan support for the extension of [payroll support] for airlines … but a frustrating process that we’re trying to get it through,” American CEO Doug Parker told CNBC.

The first round of aid required airlines to maintain minimum service levels regardless of demand and the terms having now expired. American has already cut more than a dozen routes to small American towns and could further reduce service without more federal support, Parker said.

Parker added that revenue at American, which reports results Oct. 22, fell about 75% in the third quarter from a year ago and would likely fall 65% in the fourth quarter from the period. of the previous year, a slight improvement compared to this spring.

Despite bipartisan support, lawmakers and the Trump administration have repeatedly failed to reach agreements on additional coronavirus aid and an attempted autonomous airlines bill failed in the House on Friday after pelosi asked airlines to suspend leavepromising more aid to the industry.

At the end of his Thursday press conference, Pelosi suggested the White House and Democrats could resume talks for a broader aid package.

“We are at the table. We want to continue the conversation. We have made progress, we are exchanging language,” the speaker said.

Airline shares fell after Pelosi’s comments on his terms for an airline-only relief bill, but ended the day higher. American gained 0.7%, United rose 1.7%, South West Airlines added 1% and Delta Airlines closed the day up 1.7%.

Earlier in the day, Trump said his administration and Democrats had resumed talks for a “bigger deal” that would address airline payroll assistance and direct payments to Americans. Two days earlier, he had abruptly ordered White House advisers to back off talks with Pelosi until after the Nov. 3 election, even as she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin worked to wrap up a broad stimulus agreement. Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke Thursday afternoon, a spokesperson said.

Among the major disputes, Pelosi has demanded $436 billion in relief for cash-strapped states and local governments and reinstated the $600-a-week unemployment insurance supplement that expired over the summer. The White House has offered $250 billion in state and city aid and an enhanced $400 weekly unemployment benefit.

The parties failed to reach an agreement on a fifth pandemic relief program during months of recurring talks. As the virus continues to spread and the US economy struggles to recover from the outbreak, concerns are growing that the damage to the health and financial well-being of Americans will worsen in the months to come. .

Despite the deadlock in Congress, Pelosi said she was still optimistic about the prospects of reaching a deal.

“I’m hopeful because it has to be done. If the president wants to wait until he wins the election, it could be forever,” she said Thursday.

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