Republican senators support giving airlines more money to avoid job losses

The proposal would provide billions of financial support ahead of possible job cuts in October

More than a dozen Republican senators threw their support on Wednesday behind a plan proposed by several airline unions to extend a payroll support program to avoid airline worker layoffs.

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The GOP senators did not specify an amount, but the airline unions’ proposal would give the hard-hit aviation industry $32 billion, including $25 billion for passenger airlines.

FILE: An empty baggage carousel spins in Denver International Airport as travelers deal with the spread of the coronavirus in Denver.  (AP)

The senators said they support relief because air travel remains depressed and several airlines have warned of possible job cuts on Oct. 1, when a prohibition on airline layoffs expires. They said in a letter to Republican and Democratic lawmakers that Congress should also consider more help for airport concessionaires and aircraft manufacturers.

In March, aviation companies got $32 billion to help cover payroll costs for six months in exchange for not laying off workers.

More than half of the 16 GOP senators who signed the letter are up for re-election in November and could be hurt by headlines about thousands of airline furloughs the month before the Nov. 3 election. Some face difficult re-election races, including Susan Collins of Maine and Cory Gardner of Colorado. Others, such as John Cornyn of Texas, represent states with large numbers of airline workers.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, made no provision for airline workers in his $1 trillion proposal for additional virus relief.

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No lawmakers have spoken out against the airline provision, although aides say some object to helping workers in one industry when there are millions of other workers who have already lost their jobs during the pandemic.

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Air travel isn't expected to return to previous levels for several years. Some industry analysts have suggested airlines should be allowed to shrink to match lower demand, even if that means fewer jobs.

The Associated Press contributed to this group.