The Federal Aviation Administration awarded the Duluth International Airport over $5 million in funding to ease effects of the coronavirus.
The aid is part of the federal government's Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act that was passed in late March. It provides over $10 billion in funding for airports across the nation that are experiencing decreasing passenger numbers. Minnesota airports are receiving over $158 million of the total package, a news release from the FAA read.
Airports can use the funding for capital expenditures, debt payments and operating expenses like payroll and utilities, according to the FAA.
Traveler numbers at Duluth International Airport are at a historic low, Executive Director Tom Werner said. As revenue from travelers is tied to maintaining basic services and infrastructure, an important source of airport revenue is "drying up."
"Though the traveling public probably isn't taking too many business trips or vacations at the moment, there's still a very real need to keep our airports open," Werner said.
The 148th Fighter Wing may need to use the airport in case of an emergency; the airport could be used to help transport medical supplies to the area; and it's part of the supply chain for items ordered online, he said.
"It's not an option to close down the airfield here. And so this funding is certainly appreciated," Werner said.
The Duluth airport will use the funding to cover payroll, maintenance and operational expenses — all of which "maintain(s) our infrastructure and provide(s) a safe and secure airport," he said.
"This $10 billion in emergency resources will help fund the continued operations of our nation’s airports during this crisis and save workers’ jobs,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao wrote in a news release.
Among the numerous Northland airports that received grants:
- Duluth's Sky Harbor Airport, $30,000;
- Superior's Richard I. Bong Airport, $30,000;
- Cloquet Carlton County Airport, $30,000;
- Two Harbors' Richard B. Helgeson Airport, $30,000;
- Grand Rapids/Itasca County Airport-Gordon Newstrom Field, $69,000;
- Hibbing's Range Regional Airport, over $1 million.