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CIRA To Receive Almost $2.9 Million In Pandemic Relief

Airplane on tarmac
Passenger traffic through the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington has returned to 80% of pre-pandemic levels, according to airport director Carl Olson.

The Central Illinois Regional Airport will get almost $2.9 million in pandemic relief money from the federal government, U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin announced Thursday.

"Our top priority is to program these funds to ensure or augment any shortfall in our debt service coverage so that we make sure none of our debt service falls on the backs of taxpayers, and also to make sure our debt reserve funds continue to be fully funded," said airport director Carl Olson.

The airport typically uses revenue from passenger enplanement fees to pay for bonds issued to build the terminal.

This is the third round of relief funding from the American Rescue Plan for the airport in Bloomington. Olson said the facility also has lost revenue by forgiving rent payments from tenants who asked for help to stay in business.

"This runs for a period of four years for these funds to be programmed, recognizing that especially right now with the increased activity of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, we're not out of the woods yet," said Olson.

Olson said passenger traffic has returned to 80% of the level before the pandemic.

Durbin and Duckworth, both Democrats, said the federal funding will provide some economic relief for costs associated with operations, staffing, cleaning, sanitization and combating the spread of COVID-19.

“Making sure airports across Illinois continue to have the support they need during this pandemic is critical to protecting local jobs and enhancing the traveler experience,” Duckworth said. “I’m proud to join Sen. Durbin in announcing this infusion of federal funding through the American Rescue Plan to help support our state’s transportation systems.”

“These federal investments will help create a safer and more efficient experience for travelers and staff at airports around Illinois,” added Durbin. “Our airports are a critical part of Illinois’ economic success, which is why Sen. Duckworth and I were proud to support the American Rescue Plan to bring this funding to our state.”

Other Illinois airports receiving funding in this round of relief are: the Metropolitan Airport Authority of Rock Island County, $4.4 million, and the Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois, $1.05 million.

Olson said the Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority has programmed $486,940 toward the PFC debt service fund to shore up the reduced PFC revenue used to fund some debt service, and $850,000 toward the general fund to offset reduced operating revenues. Those expenditures come from the first two rounds of federal pandemic relief passed by Congress.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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