Airlines, others to benefit from $2 trillion rescue bill

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. gives a thumbs up as he leaves the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, where a deal has been reached on a coronavirus bill. The 2 trillion dollar stimulus bill is expected to be voted on in the Senate Wednesday. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The White House and Senate leaders agreed early Wednesday on a $2 trillion economic rescue package, the largest in the country's history. The bill comes in response to the viral pandemic that has shut down businesses and crippled economies around the globe.

The bill would give direct payments to most American households of $1,200 per adult, $2,400 per couple and $500 per child. It also expands unemployment benefits and provides direct grants and loans to businesses and hospitals.

The Republican-controlled Senate must still approve the bill before sending it to the Democratic-controlled House, so final details could change. Passage in the Senate was expected later Wednesday.

Here's how various industries will benefit:

AIRLINES: Airlines could get a key part of their request — cash grants from taxpayers — under the massive spending bill. The deal includes $25 billion in direct grants and up to another $25 billion in loans or loan guarantees to passenger airlines. Cargo airlines like FedEx would get $4 billion in grants and up to $4 billion in loans, and airline industry contractors could get $3 billion in grants.

The bill says grants are exclusively to pay employee wages, salaries and benefits based on how much the airline spent on them from April through September of last year. Loans would carry conditions, including bans on companies buying back their own stock or paying dividends. Airlines would have to avoid layoffs “to the extent practicable,” and would be required to keep at least 90% of current employment levels.

The White House and Senate Republicans had initially balked at grants, but airline unions lobbied hard for them. Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, called the relief package “an unprecedented win” for airline workers.

J.P. Morgan analyst Jamie Baker estimated that American Airlines could get the biggest grant, at $6.3 billion, followed by United Airlines, $5.7 billion; Delta Air Lines, $5.6 billion; Southwest, $3.6 billion; Alaska and JetBlue, $1.15 billion each; and Spirit Airlines, $440 million.