Santa Monica Airport (SMO) has been assigned $69,000 from the federal government as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Airport Grant Program but plans to close the airport might prevent the city from accepting the grant.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will award $1,088,980,881 in airport aid to 188 airports in California to help respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency according to a statement issued by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao
“This $10 billion in emergency resources will help fund the continued operations of our nation’s airports during this crisis and save workers’ jobs,” she said.
The money can be used for capital expenditures, airport operating expenses including payroll and utilities, and airport debt payments. Officials said the payments will supplement airports who have lost revenue due to a decline in passenger traffic and other reductions in airport business.
“Thank you to the dedicated men and women from the FAA’s Office of Airports for creating an entirely new program in record time to assist airport sponsors in desperate need of these funds,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.
However, Santa Monica Airport is governed under an agreement with authorities that allows City Hall to close the airport in 2028 and part of that deal puts restrictions on funds that can be accepted.
“In accordance with the Consent Decree, which authorizes the City to close the airport after December 31, 2028, the City has not been accepting grants relating to airport operations,” said Airport Director Stelios Makrides. “We are looking into whether the City can accept this grant without jeopardizing the Consent Decree and the City’s continued ability to vote to close the Airport after December 31, 2028. As a result, we believe it is premature for the City to speculate how it might spend a $69,000 grant.”
In announcing the money, the FAA encouraged airports to spend the grant funds immediately to help minimize any adverse impact from the current public health emergency.
The FAA will use a streamlined application and grant-agreement process to make this funding immediately available for critical airport needs. The funds will be available as soon as the airport sponsor executes a grant agreement and airport operators have been told to work with their local FAA offices to facilitate the process.
The CARES Act funds are available to airports that are part of the national airport system and the money will be distributed using varied formulas covering commercial service airports, all reliever airports and some public-owned general aviation airports.
In addition, the CARES Act will increase the Federal share to 100 percent for grants awarded under the fiscal year 2020 appropriations for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and Supplemental Discretionary grants.
Officials said AIP grants recipients usually contribute a matching percentage towards project costs and eliminating the local share will allow critical safety and capacity projects to continue as planned regardless of airport’s current financial circumstances.