Paine Field left out of significant federal coronavirus relief

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SEATTLE -- Our region’s airports have been struggling through this economic slowdown.

Government grants of $10 billion were awarded across the country. Washington state airports were bolstered with money as an effort to save jobs and keep those facilities running.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport got $129 million, but Paine Field in Snohomish County was awarded only a fraction of what officials anticipated.

The airport is publicly owned but supports an array of private enterprises, supporting more than 150-thousand jobs and an annual economic impact of $60 billion. The methods used to determine how much Paine Field would be awarded was based on out-dated information, the airport got little more than $150,000.

Commercial air passengers have only been flying out of Paine Field since March 2019. Today, the terminal is nearly empty and revenues are down dramatically.

“They’re not collecting any of the fees,” said aerospace and airline reporter Andrew McIntosh from the Puget Sound Business Journal.

Airports across the country saw similar drops in revenue as passengers sheltered in place to avoid coronavirus.

Federal relief was meant to save jobs and keep airports operating.

“Boeing is a tenant, and so are hundreds of much smaller and medium-sized aerospace suppliers and they’re being pulverized,” McIntosh added.

Officials expected to receive millions of dollars in aid, but Paine Field received only $157,000.

“We don’t have insight into how the formulas worked,” said airport director Arif Ghouse. “Judging by other airports we would have gotten millions.”

Information dating back to 2018 was used to determine how much Paine Field would qualify in relief, but the data didn’t account for the commercial flights that would soon occur.

Ghouse said he planned to engage with lawmakers, reviewing this year’s budget, make cuts and dip into reserves. He hoped another round of grants could make a difference.

Airline industry experts predict normalcy won’t return until a vaccine for coronavirus is available.

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