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Lambert in line for federal bailout, director 'very happy' with amount

She said the airport can choose to take the money in this fiscal year, which ends June 30, or payments in intervals
Credit: SLBJ

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Lambert International Airport is set to receive nearly $60 million from federal CARES Act grants put in place to aid facilities as air traffic plummets amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said she's "very happy with the revenue share we've got."

Still, it's not clear how the funding will be used, as the hit to the airport's budget isn't yet known. "It's going to be another two weeks before we get a good analysis," she said, adding that both aeronautical and non-aeronautical revenue, such as retail and parking, would be way off.

Possible uses for the federal funds include debt service, Airport Improvement Program projects, keeping workers on payroll, and paying utilities and other operating expenses, according to Hamm-Niebruegge. She said the airport can choose to take the money in this fiscal year, which ends June 30, or payments in intervals. It will work with the Federal Aviation Administration's Central Region Airports Division on the grant application.

"We've put ourselves in a good financial position, helping us in terms of managing through this," Hamm-Niebruegge said, adding that reserves have been built up. In response to coronavirus, Lambert already canceled some $3 million in projects. It has a fiscal 2020 budget of about $174 million. 

Federal aid flowing to U.S. airports totals $10 billion, according to a statement from U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, with Atlanta's airport receiving the most, at $338.5 million. The statement said the funding is meant to "support continuing operations and replace lost revenue resulting from the sharp decline in passenger traffic and other airport business due to the COVID-19 public health emergency." 

The FAA said it "encourages airport sponsors to spend the grant funds immediately to help minimize any adverse impact from the current public health emergencies." 

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