US airlines have begun laying off thousands of workers as a last-ditch attempt by legislators to provide $US28 million in additional funding stalled in Congress.
A move by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to urgently end an impasse on a stimulus package was blocked by Republicans skeptical that the maneuver was partisan, despite bipartisan agreement support is necessary.
The proposal would have provided the funding to the airlines if they held off layoffs until March 31, 2021.
Existing assistance to US airlines to cover payrolls under the CARES Act expired on September 30 and American and United between them are looking at forcing to lay off up 32,000 workers unless Congress approves additional funding.
Airline workers have already received notice that they could be furloughed, although airlines have said they can reverse the process if assistance comes soon enough.
The US workers join airline staff around the world who have lost their jobs as the coronavirus has devastated the industry.
Passenger volume in the US is still down 70 percent and the International Air Transport Association said recently that traffic during the normally lucrative northern summer had been worse than expected.
Airlines For America chief executive Nick Calio had earlier warned that far more jobs were at risk. A4A estimates the airline industry helps drive more than $US1,7 trillion in domestic economic activity and 10 million jobs.
Calio said there was frustration at the inability to reach a deal despite the bipartisan support.
“It is mystifying,’’ he told CNN. “you have broad bipartisan, bicameral support on Capitol Hill. You have the president saying three or four times he wants something to happen for the airlines.
“We’re just asking them to come to a compromise and they’re not that far apart. “
He added: “It is our fervent hope that [Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Mnuchin] think about these employees who are losing their jobs, what it means to them on a human level, on a day-to-day and frankly, what’s it’s going to mean to our economy.
“We don’t need good intentions. We need a law to pass.”