BRIDGETON, MO – Governor Mike Parson announced that Missouri will receive $150.4 million in federal grants for 75 state airports. St. Louis Lambert International Airport is one of six airports in the state that will receive over one million dollars to assist them through the COVID-19 crisis.
Lambert Airport is a ghost town right now. People are canceling flights right and left to avoid exposure to the virus and it has impacted airports and airlines financially.
Parsons praised the federal aviation grant in a statement saying, “This is welcome news for those who work in Missouri’s aviation industry. These grants will provide much needed revenue for the state’s airports at a time when revenues are declining due to a decrease in travel.”
Lambert was given just under $60 million in the grant. Director of Lambert International Airport Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said this money will initially be dispersed among three primary categories.
“As this money is coming in, there are three primary things. First, we have to keep our employees on the payroll. So, the federal government is making sure that all of the workers can stay employed at their salaries. So, we have to ensure that which is great for our people,” said Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, Director of Lambert International Airport.
Debt payments and day to day operating expenses are also of high importance.
MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna announced, “MoDOT will work closely with the FAA to implement this critical funding. These grants, which require no local match, will be extremely helpful in keeping our public use airports viable at this critical time.”
“The passengers we are boarding is down 93 or 94 percent,” said Niebruegge. “So, on a normal day like yesterday we had less than 1,000 passengers boarding the airplanes. On a given day last year on the same week I would have had 24 thousand people boarding. So, you can see the dramatic decline.”
Lambert normally operates on a $174 million annual budget. Niebruegge knows this grant money will only last them so long, but she and her team will take the next couple of months to see where the money is being used and how flyers respond.
“I think the challenging piece as we go forward is just how long does it take for the traffic to come back. We can turn the airport back to 100% tomorrow, but how long will it take for the flying public to come back and fill those airplanes?” said Niebruegge.
The grant is separated into two separate pockets: one for airports and one for individual airlines such as Delta, Southwest, and American. Lambert is working closely with their partners to ensure everyone has what they need.