June 23 (UPI) -- The Federal Aviation Administration has announced it will be awarding $8 billion in grants to airports to keep workers employed, construction projects ongoing and to alleviate the economic pressures incurred by the transportation hubs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement Tuesday, the FAA said $6.5 billion in grants will be going toward commercial service airports that will be dispersed based on their annual boarding numbers while an additional $800 million will be made available to in-terminal concessions for rent relief.
Airports can use the money to reimburse operational expenses, debt service payments and costs related to fighting the spread of the coronavirus, the administration said, adding the funding requires the airports to employ a minimum of 90% of the staff they carried pre-pandemic.
"The Airport Rescue Grants keep workers employed and help the aviation sector recover as more Americans get vaccinated and begin traveling again," said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
The pandemic, which caused countries worldwide to enforce lockdowns and border-crossing bans, has greatly impacted the aviation industry with airlines brought to a virtual halt.
According to a late March report from Airports Council International, a global trade representative of the world's airport authorities, passenger traffic in North America last year dropped nearly 62.5% compared to pre-pandemic levels. Concerning North American airports, it said their revenue loss was estimated at 67% of what it generated prior to the pandemic.
Among the hundreds of airports to receive grants include Seattle-Tacoma International at $175.7 million, Philadelphia International at $115 million and Portland International at $72 million.
"These Airport Rescue Grants provide needed support to our nation's airports as we recover from the pandemic's impacts," said Steve Dickson, the FAA administrator.