Federal aid cuts could hurt small, rural airports - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Federal aid cuts could hurt small, rural airports


A federal program that subsidizes commercial air service for small towns and rural communities across the lower 48 states is struggling to remain aloft.  The program began in 1978 after the government deregulated the airlines.  It gives carriers a financial incentive not to drop lightly traveled routes that lose money.

Conservatives say the $200 million program is wasteful, while supporters say it's a lifesaver for rural economies.  Now, they say it's more vulnerable than ever as Congress tries to reduce the budget deficit.

The US House of Representatives has voted to phase out the program, known as "Essential Air Service."  The Senate would spare it but tighten eligibility criteria in ways that could disqualify some airports.  About 110 small airports currently benefit from the subsidies.


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