Sep 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

2 House Democrats call for an investigation into airlines' use of federal relief

American Airlines aircraft taxiing at La Guardia Airport.
American Airlines aircraft taxiing at La Guardia Airport. Photo: John Nacion/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Two Democrat House chairs have asked the Treasury Department to launch a federal investigation into airlines' use of federal COVID-19 relief aid from 2020.

Why it matters: Democrats are concerned that airlines misused their federal relief funds during the early days of the pandemic, which led to a pilot shortage that's creating delays and cancellations today.

Details: Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) sent a letter to the Treasury Department Thursday, asking for a thorough review of the federal funding.

  • In the letter, the lawmakers ask the Treasury Department to investigate if relief funds went toward buyouts or early retirement offers instead of keeping employees on the payroll.
  • Maloney and Clyburn said at least three of the leading U.S. airlines cut their workforce after receiving relief, leading to a pilot shortage that has brought "widespread flight delays and cancellations" now, according to a news release.

What they're saying: “American taxpayers supported the airline industry during its darkest days at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, when nearly 75% of commercial flights were grounded,” the chairs wrote in the letter.  “Americans deserve transparency into how airlines have used the federal funds they have received.”

  • The Treasury Department declined to comment on the letter.

Flashback: At least 10 U.S. airlines accepted federal aid to keep employees on the payroll back in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Axios' Joann Muller writes.

  • The aid was a part of the more than $2 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress in spring 2020.

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