Federal Grant Funds Available for Communities to Improve Airfare and Air Service.

          The Department of Transportation (“DoT”) today announced a solicitation of proposals from communities seeking federal grant money to assist with the improvement of the community’s airfare and air service. The DoT is offering a total of $10 million in grants under its Small Community Air Service Development Program (“SCASDP”) to be disbursed to up to 40 communities, consortia of communities, or a combination of either (“Communities”).

           The SCASDP grants are to be used to implement improvements of the Community’s airfare and air service. This year, the DoT has a total of $10 million available in fiscal year 2017 (October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018) to distribute in the form of grants to up to 40 Communities in order to implement improvements proposed by the applicant. There is no limitation on the amount of the grant awarded, but past awards have ranged from $20,000 to $1.6 million. Of the 36 SCASDP applicants in 2016, only nine grants were awarded to Communities in seven states.

          Those Communities eligible to receive the grant include those with airports that are not larger than a small hub airport, have inadequate air carrier service or high airfares, and have an airport for their Community that exhibits a need for grant assistance. Groups of communities are eligible if they are working jointly to accomplish the same goal and fit into the aforementioned categories.

          Importantly, the grants cannot be used for capital improvements. So runway expansions or resurfacing, construction of new hangars, etc. are not eligible improvements under the SCASDP. While there are several available uses for the grants, one of the more interesting is that grants are available for an underserved airport to carryout measures that are deemed to be useful in improving air service regarding the cost of air service to consumers and the availability of that service. This includes improving marketing and promotion of air services.

          As in 2016, the DoT will give priority to those Communities where: airfares are higher than the average airfares for all communities; a portion of the cost of the activity contemplated by the community is provided from local, non-airport revenue sources; a public-private partnership has been or will be established to facilitate air carrier service to the public; improved service will bring the material benefits of scheduled air transportation to a broad section of the traveling public, including businesses, educational institutions, and other enterprises whose access to the national air transportation system is limited; the funds will be used in a timely manner; and multiple communities cooperate to submit a regional or multistate application to consolidate air service into one regional airport.

          Communities that are currently receiving air service under Essential Air Service (“EAS”) or Alternate Essential Air Service (“AEAS”) are not eligible for SCASDP grants. Grant applications must be submitted no later than December 15, 2017 by 4 p.m. eastern time.

          For more information on SCASDP, EAS, AEAS and other state and federal grant programs relating to aviation, or for assistance with the grant application and determining your Community’s eligibility, please contact Adam B. Kuenning with Erickson | Sederstrom.