President Donald Trump is weighing executive action to avoid massive layoffs at US airlines if Congress fails to agree a fresh coronavirus stimulus package, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Wednesday.
His remarks came a day after American Airlines said its workforce will shrink by 40,000, including 19,000 involuntary cuts, in October without an extension of government aid.
"If Congress is not going to work, this president is going to get to work and solve some problems. So hopefully, we can help out the airlines and keep some of those employees from being furloughed," Meadows said in an interview with Politico.
He seemed to suggest, however, that legislative action would be needed, telling Politico: "It would take a CARES package, I believe, to do it," referring to the $3 trillion coronavirus relief package that Congress passed earlier this year.
Airline shares were lower in early trading .DJUSAR.
US airlines received $25 billion in payroll aid under the CARES Act to protect jobs through October and the industry has lobbied for another $25 billion to keep workers employed through March, when they hope travel demand will be stronger.
Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said on Twitter that executive orders would not translate into a clean extension of the airline aid under the CARES Act.
"It will definitely take Congress acting to keep all of the job requirements in place," she said, while adding: "Good to see WH wants to restart talks."
Talks between Meadows, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer ended in early August, with top Democrats and the administration far apart on new legislation. Meadows told Politico that he is not optimistic that negotiations will restart soon.