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VOL. 44 | NO. 13 | Friday, March 27, 2020

Treasury wants airlines to say how they will pay back loans

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DALLAS (AP) — The Treasury Department wants airlines to say how they will compensate the government for $25 billion in grants used to keep employees on the payroll during the coronavirus outbreak.

The economic-relief bill passed last week gives the Treasury Secretary the power to take an equity stake in airlines that get taxpayer help.

The law provides money for grants and another $25 billion in loans or loan guarantees for passenger airlines hurt by the severe drop in travel from the outbreak. The number of people going through security checkpoints at U.S. airports has plunged more than 90% from a year ago, and airlines have suspended nearly all of their international flights. ??

The Treasury Department warned airlines in a document posted Monday night to apply for aid by late Friday or face delays in processing their requests. If they fail to apply by April 27, they could be shut out.

American Airlines said it will seek $12 billion. Other major carriers did not immediately indicate their plans, although the industry lobbied Congress and the White House for the grant money, which must be spent on payroll expenses that avoid the need for layoffs.

It was not immediately clear whether Treasury will go ahead take partial ownership of the airlines or how big those stakes might be. Treasury directed airlines to "identify financial instruments to be issued to the Secretary that, in the sole determination of the Secretary, provide appropriate compensation to the Federal Government for the provision of payroll support."

That could include warrants, preferred stock, debt or other options. A key and unresolved issue is the price at which warrants could be converted to stock, according to industry officials.

The money would come with other strings, notably a requirement to avoid laying off or cutting pay for workers through September and a ban on airlines purchasing their own stock.

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