The Department of Transportation on Tuesday announced the allocation of $8 billion in grants to help U.S. airports recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Airports in Washington state will receive a total of $217 million, the tenth-largest allocation among all states. Of that, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will receive $176 million.
Spokane airport will get $16.8 million; the Tri-Cities airport $5.6 million; Paine Field in Everett $5.4 million; and Bellingham’s airport $4.5 million.
The funding comes from the American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden in March, which targeted airports in order to maintain jobs and keep construction projects going.
Airports receiving the aid must maintain at least 90% of their pre-pandemic employment level.
Overall, about 20,000 people work at Sea-Tac, in jobs that include airline staff, cargo handlers, retail workers, caterers and many others.
The money can be used not only to cover operational expenses but also to service debt, to provide rent relief to in-terminal retail and concession companies, and to cover the cost of extra health screenings and sanitation.
The ARPA grants are the third round of federal stimulus money going to the airports since the pandemic hit the travel business. Sea-Tac airport got $192 million last year and an additional $37 million in the second stimulus package this year.
In an interview last month, Sea-Tac Managing Director Lance Lyttle said the airport lost about $350 million in 2020, expects to lose about $100 million this year, and that only the government stimulus money kept the airport going and staved off layoffs.
“There’s no way we could have survived without it,” Lyttle said then.
With domestic air travel recovering quickly throughout the country, the nation’s airports are suddenly busy again.
The latest data shows U.S. domestic traffic down 44% in March versus the same month in 2019, and improved to only 35% down in April.
Though global figures are not yet available for May and June, indications are that demand increased in those months. At Sea-Tac in May, just over 3 million passengers passed through the airport, down 33% from May 2019.
The U.S. domestic market is expected to make a full recovery by the end of this year or early next year.
Around the nation, California airports got the largest ARPA awards, totaling $900 million, followed by Florida with $724 million, Texas with $690 million and New York with $418 million.
Only seven airports in the country got a larger award than Sea-Tac.
Hartfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta got $370 million; LAX in Los Angeles got $304 million; O’Hare in Chicago got $289 million; Dallas/Fort Worth got $252 million; Denver airport got $233 million; JFK in New York City got $217 million; and San Francisco airport got $193 million.