Kansas representative introduces aviation manufacturing legislation

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U.S. Rep. Ron Estes (R-KS) has reintroduced bipartisan legislation that would allow aviation manufacturers to get relief if their workforce is at risk of being furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislation, the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Act, would allow aviation manufacturers to designate 25 percent of their workforce at risk of furlough due to COVID-19 to be eligible for 50 percent of their total compensation being covered by the Department of Transportation.

“Kansans have built general aviation and commercial airplanes for a century, helping us become the Air Capital of the World. However, the negative effects of COVID-19 have slowed production rates to record lows, putting thousands of Kansans out of work and jeopardizing our local companies’ stability,” Estes said. “The Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Act will help keep workers on the payroll and connected with their aviation jobs, which solves the short-term unemployment issue and keeps our skilled workforce here in the Sunflower State for the long term. This commonsense, bipartisan legislation has the backing of the unions and workers and is a way for the Biden administration to rebuild our economy.”

Co-sponsored by Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), the bill would provide critical relief for the aviation industry, the legislators said.

“In the Pacific Northwest, the highly skilled aviation manufacturing and maintenance workforce drives the economy and helps the U.S. remain competitive abroad,” said Rep. Larsen, Chair of the House Aviation Subcommittee. “This bipartisan bill provides critical relief to help sustain the aerospace supply chain until the nation gets to the other side of the pandemic. I am committed to protecting these jobs and supporting the dedicated women and men who keep the supply chain moving during such challenging times.”

If passed, the program would be overseen by the Secretary of Transportation. The bill contains several safeguards, including restrictions on employers circumventing collective bargaining agreements, moving jobs out of the United States, and using the program for stock buybacks, among other things. Additionally, given the unknown nature of the pandemic’s impact on the aviation industry, the program would continue through April 2023.

The legislation is supported by aviation industry groups like the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Aerospace Industries Association, Aeronautical Repair Station Association, National Defense Industrial Association, Aerospace Futures Alliance, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, Helicopter Association International, National Association of State Aviation Officials, National Air Transportation Association, and National Business Aviation Association.

“The aviation manufacturing and maintenance industry is an integral part of the U.S. economy and transportation system. The pandemic-related challenges and obstacles that the industry and its highly skilled workforce face continue to be significant. We applaud Reps. Estes and Larsen for their leadership and support for aviation manufacturers and maintenance providers to retain and rehire their workforce. It is essential that both industry and government partner together to protect this vital job sector,” said Pete Bunce, president and CEO of General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA).