Feds consider coronavirus bailout for airlines

WASHINGTON — White House economist Larry Kudlow confirmed Monday that authorities are looking closely at a bailout of the airline industry — though Kudlow said he prefers the term “liquidity fix.”

Kudlow said that Trump administration officials are in touch with House and Senate leaders about options as the coronavirus outbreak tanks demand for flights.

The administration does not believe airlines will fail, Kudlow said. But he added they are critical “channels” that cannot be allowed to close.

“It’s not so much a bailout. Airlines are key channels in the economy, you’ve got to have them,” Kudlow said on the White House driveway. “This is more in our view liquidity help, cash flow help.”

The optimistic outlook for the industry is pegged to a forecast of COVID-19 infections subsiding before long.

“We see this virus problem as a matter of months, not years. And we don’t see the airlines failing. But if they get into a cash crunch, we’re going to try to help them,” Kudlow said. “I see this as a liquidity fix, not a bailout.”

Kudlow would not confirm whether $50 billion is an accurate ballpark figure.

Major airlines are reporting devastating implosion of ticket sales.

American Airlines cut international flights 75 percent. Delta is cutting overall flights 40 percent.

President Trump last week announced a 26-country Europe travel ban, and on Monday the UK and Ireland are being added to slow the virus. Travelers from China and Iran previously were banned.

Trump said Friday in the Rose Garden that he was open to bailouts for airlines and the cruise line industry. But he added: “So far people haven’t been asking.”

The number of US COVID-19 cases passed 3,600 on Monday, with 61 deaths.

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