Easton Airport to receive $157K in CARES Act funding

Micah Risher has been manager of Easton Airport since 2018.

EASTON — Easton Airport is one of 18 airports in Maryland that will receive grant funding to help respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao announced Tuesday, April 14, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will award $107,731,471 in airport aid to Maryland airports, including Easton Airport at Newnam Field in Easton, Bay Bridge Airport in Stevensville and Cambridge-Dorchester Regional Airport in Cambridge in the five Mid-Shore counties.

This historic grant funding is part of the Trump Administration’s newly created Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Airport Grant Program, an effort to provide unprecedented and immediate relief to American families, workers, and businesses, according to a USDOT press release.

“This $10 billion in emergency resources will help fund the continued operations of our nation’s airports during this crisis and save workers’ jobs,” Chao said.

While Easton Airport Manager Micah Risher hasn’t seen the promised $157,000 yet, he said, “I’m absolutely sure we’re going to get every dollar.” He said the process for getting the grant hasn’t been announced yet.

“We’re right in the middle of the cycle for applying for our ACIP grants through the Airport Improvement Program,” Risher said. ACIP stands for Airports Capital Improvement Plan. “The FAA normally pays 90% of our costs and we have to pay the remaining 10%. There’s some speculation that that (grant) will fill the gap of that 10%.”

The USDOT release stated the “CARES Act also provides funds to increase the Federal share to 100 percent for grants awarded under the fiscal year 2020 appropriations for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and Supplemental Discretionary grants.”

“Under normal circumstances, AIP grant recipients contribute a matching percentage of the project costs. Providing this additional funding and eliminating the local share will allow critical safety and capacity projects to continue as planned regardless of airport sponsors’ current financial circumstances,” the release stated.

The grant will “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 funds are available for airport capital expenditures, airport operating expenses including payroll and utilities, and airport debt payments,” according to the USDOT.

As one of the Talbot County Council’s enterprises, the airport is self-sustaining, and in November 2019, it became the owner of the Talbot County Business Center, the former Black and Decker property on Easton Parkway. Eventually, the building will be razed, but for now, about 150 businesses and departments rent space at both the business center and at Newnam Field.

“I think there might be strings attached in terms of, you have to keep your work force going, and it’s probably to make up for lost revenues,” Risher said. “We’re just like everyone else — we’re starting to feel the pinch. I mean, our fuel sales are significantly down. We’re going to be off by a lot now because nobody’s flying.”

We haven’t seen a lot of revenue loss with rents and things of that nature, but it’s still early in the emergency,” he said. “The longer things grind on, and the longer businesses are in duress — that’s a real possibility that we’re planning for here at the airport.”

“Certainly the $157,000 will help soften that blow, and it will help us help our businesses,” Risher said. “It will help us weather the storm, so that our businesses can weather the storm.”

Risher said he was astonished by the news that Salisbury-Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport will receive $18.1 million, the second largest Maryland grant behind Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Airport at $87.6 million.

“Wow, that really stood out to me,” Risher said. “There are huge airports around the country that aren’t getting anything close to that.”

Bay Bridge and Dorchester-Cambridge airports each were granted $30,000.

According to the release, “the FAA will use a streamlined application and grant-agreement process to make this funding immediately available for critical airport needs. The funds will be available as soon as the airport sponsor executes a grant agreement.”

The CARES Act provides new funds distributed by various formulas for all airports that are part of the national airport system. This includes all commercial service airports, all reliever airports and some public-owned general aviation airports, like Easton Airport.

View a list of Maryland airports receiving funding on an interactive map, along with funding for all U.S. airports on FAA’s website at www.faa.gov/airports/cares_act/map/

Follow me on Twitter @connie_stardem.

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