Airport could get $18.5M in COVID relief
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden could receive more than $18.5 million in federal relief funds to help with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced that commercial and general aviation airports across the country would receive about $10 billion in grants as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Airport Grant Program.
“This $10 billion in emergency resources will help fund the continued operations of our nation’s airports during this crisis and save workers’ jobs,” Chao said in the news release.
The fallout of the pandemic has hurt the local airport’s revenues across the board, Airport Director Kevin Booth said.
“The thing that tipped the scale for everything was when the ski area closed,” he said.
Steamboat Resort shut down March 15 for the rest of the winter season as a way to limit the spread of the virus. Routt County’s lodging ban, which went into effect March 24 and restricted visitors from traveling to or staying in the county, has further impacted business.
While passenger numbers for March have not been compiled yet, Booth expects a major reduction.
United Airlines, which typically offers two daily flights this time of year, has reduced its service to one daily flight in and out of the airport, Booth said.
Booth has not yet enumerated the total revenue losses, but he is scheduled to present those numbers to the Board of Routt County Commissioners later this month.
The airport continues to operate as an essential service, Booth said. This is the slower time of year when staff numbers decrease from about 80 to 30 personnel, but the drop in flights accelerated the reduction.
For Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger, who sits on the Yampa Valley Airport Commission, the $18.5 million grant total seems too good to be true.
“Hopefully, they didn’t make a calculation error,” Monger said.
As Booth emphasized, the airport has not received the funding yet. According to the news release about the grants, the Federal Aviation Administration is using “a streamlined application and grant-agreement process to make this funding immediately available for critical airport needs.” It requires airports to submit a grant agreement before receiving the funding.
Booth has reached out to the FAA for better clarification of the application process and expects to receive more information next week.
The funds must be used for airport capital expenditures, airport operating expenses including payroll and utilities and airport debt payments, according to the news release. The FAA encourages airports to spend the funding immediately to help minimize the economic impacts of the pandemic.
At the Airport Commission’s meeting last week, members implemented stricter policies to prevent the transmission of any disease from incoming passengers.
Flights already have been limited to six passengers, Monger said. In addition, all incoming visitors, such as second homeowners wanting to be in a remote area amid the public health crisis, must now self-quarantine for 14 days, as recommended by public health officials.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone — regardless of vaccination status — wear a mask in indoor, public spaces in Routt County.