CARES Act swoops in with funds for Ontario Municipal Airport

ONTARIO — Economic relief from the novel coronavirus COVID-19 is needed in many aspects of daily life including transportation and the Ontario Municipal Airport will join others across Oregon in getting just that: relief.

On Wednesday morning, U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., made the announcement that Oregon’s airports will be getting some necessary relief in the amount of $140 million in response to the economic hardship that has been imposed on the industry by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funds for airports are part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the same emergency legislation that has temporarily expanded unemployment for many laid off or furloughed workers.

The funding for airports from the CARES Act allows them to cover operating expenses that arise from sharp air travel declines and other economic losses in the wake of COVID-19.

Of the $140 million allocation, Ontario’s airport will receive $30,000.

Ontario Municipal Airport Manager Dan Beaubien was glad to hear the news that the airport was going to be on the receiving end of some of the grant money.

“We’re grateful to have that much,” he said, “We have lots of things we can put it into.”

Beaubien described how the airport does not have commercial flights or a large staff like other airports in larger cities, however, in the 1970s, there was much more flight activity including air charters and air patrol.

Beaubien was dismayed to say that this year’s annual air fair has been canceled. This cancelation was particularly problematic considering that last year was the first year the air fair returned to Ontario’s airport after a long absence.

The Argus reached out to Ontario City Manager Adam Brown for his reaction to the funds, he offered his reply via email on Thursday afternoon.

“I don’t know how we will use it right now. We have some options that will really help our airport progress, but I have to see if there are any strings or specified uses attached to the funds,” said Brown.

Wyden said the economic impact from COVID-19 has “devastated airports” in both the state and the nation.

“More federal help will be needed to support these key travel connections throughout Oregon, but I am gratified these resources are en route to ensure our state’s airports will continue running in communities that rely on them for travel, the transport of goods and more,” he said.

Oregon’s airports of all sizes are dealing with economic impacts from the pandemic, Merkley said.

“These assets are economic hubs for communities across our state, and we need to make sure they have the resources they need to get to the other side of this crisis,” he said.