33 Utah airports to receive $100M from feds' 'rescue grants'

Passengers wait at their gates for flights at the Salt Lake City International Airport on May 24, 2021. Thirty-three airports across Utah are set to receive over $100 million in grants aimed to keep airports moving, the FAA announced Tuesday.

Passengers wait at their gates for flights at the Salt Lake City International Airport on May 24, 2021. Thirty-three airports across Utah are set to receive over $100 million in grants aimed to keep airports moving, the FAA announced Tuesday. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)



SALT LAKE CITY — Thirty-three airports across Utah are set to receive a little over $100 million in grants aimed to keep airports moving, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Tuesday.

In all, the FAA plans to dole out about $8 billion toward U.S. airports with grants that came from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which President Joe Biden signed into law back in March. The money, according to the federal agency, will go toward keeping U.S. airport workers employed and ensure airport construction projects continue following the COVID-19 pandemic's economic impacts on the airline industry.

"The Airport Rescue Grants keep workers employed and help the aviation sector recover as more Americans get vaccinated and begin traveling again," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, in a statement Tuesday. "These grants are part of the administration's commitment to build back a better and safer transportation system throughout our country."

According to the FAA, $6.5 billion of the funds were shared across airports based on annual boardings, while another $800 million was geared toward "providing relief to in-terminal airport concessions from rent" and other remaining funds went toward various airport programs.

A bulk of the money headed to Utah will go toward Salt Lake City International Airport, which is slated to receive close to $91.7 million alone from the Airport Rescue Grants. FAA officials said about $80.7 million of that will go toward airport operations support while $11 million will go toward concessionaires at the airport. Of that $11 million for concessionaires, $8.8 million will go toward small companies, they added.

Per FAA data, Provo Municipal Airport is set to receive close to $2 million, which is the most among the remaining 32 other Utah airports. St. George Regional Airport ($1.9 million), Cedar City Regional Airport ($1.1 million) and Canyonlands Field ($1.1 million) round out the top five.

The majority of the Utah airports are slated to receive less than $100,000, including more than a dozen receiving a minimum of $22,000.

The grants were announced the same day that the American Automobile Association released its July 4 holiday weekend travel forecast, which projects a 40% increase in travel from 2020 and indicates that more Americans are ready to return to the skies. The report estimates there will be 3.5 million flyers for the holiday, which would be more than 2½ times more flyers than last year and close to levels in 2019.

Still, the U.S. Travel Association released a report earlier this month that estimates that U.S. travel spending will remain close to $260 billion below spending in 2019. The forecast estimates that both travel volume and travel spending will finally reach 2019 levels in 2023 and surpass that total in 2024.

The travel spike from 2020 mixed with the slow recovery back to the 2019 levels has created headaches for airports. For instance, Salt Lake City International Airport officials said this month they were dealing with staff shortages heading into the summer travel season.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement Tuesday that the grants are aimed to help the aviation industry as it slowly recovers.

"These airport rescue grants provide needed support to our nation's airports as we recover from the pandemic's impacts," he said.

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