Latest COVID-19 rescue plan throws lifeline to Seattle-area aerospace workers

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As part of the latest economic rescue plan to buoy the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress approved a $3 billion payroll support program for the aviation manufacturing industry.

The Puget Sound Business Journal outlined how the six-month federal grant is designed to help large and mid-sized suppliers in the Seattle-area aviation industry, rather than big manufacturers like Boeing. 

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington state, led efforts to include the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Act in President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act.

Below is a condensed version of the Business Journal’s Q&A on the jobs protection law:

  • Who does it cover? The payroll support grant covers up to 25% of an aviation manufacturer’s workforce as of April 1, 2020. 
  • Who is eligible? Eligible employees are U.S.-based workers engaged in aviation manufacturing.
  • How do companies qualify? An employer must demonstrate their need based on a) having involuntarily furloughed or laid off 10% of its workforce, or b) having experienced at least a 15% decline in revenues in 2020 compared to 2019.
  • What kinds of aerospace companies qualify? Eligible employers are actively manufacturing an aircraft or a part of an aircraft or engine under a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) production approval. Other qualifications include holding an FAA certificate for maintenance, repair and overhaul of aircraft, aircraft engines, components or propellers.
  • Who’s excluded and ineligible? Excluded are employees with a total compensation level of $200,000 or more per year. The grant funds must be exclusively used for pay and benefits, and to facilitate the retention, rehire or recall of employees.
  • What’s not allowed? Funds are for current compensation only – and may not be used for back pay of returning rehired or recalled employees. Participating employees cannot be involuntarily furloughed or laid off, or see pay and benefits cut during the period covered by the government grant.
  • Who pushed for it? The Aerospace Futures Alliance in Washington state as well as aircraft engine maker General Electric, fuselage maker Spirit AeroSystems, and the other major industry associations as well as the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA), General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA).
  • How does organized aerospace labor feel about it? The sector’s two big labor groups, the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAM) and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), both support the effort.

If you have questions about how coronavirus laws affect your industry, or need advice about L&I, workers’ comp or other employment law claims, contact the attorneys at Emery ReddyWe help workers.

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