Bill to end FAA furloughs could impact award of some airport improvement grants

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The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned that it might not be able to award some "discretionary" grants for airport improvement projects, following a law signed to use funds allocated for such projects to restore the agency's staffing levels.

US President Barack Obama signed into law a bill on 1 May that allowed the transfer of up to $253 million from the FAA's airport improvement grants' surplus funds to restore FAA staffing levels and end furloughs of air traffic controllers. The furloughs, which the FAA said were necessary as part of a US government move to reduce its budget, led to flight delays at several airports in the days after they were implemented on 21 April.

FAA administrator Michael Huerta, testifying at a US House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing today, says the $253 million will come out of "discretionary grants" that the agency gives out at the end of the year.

He adds that it would be "reasonable to expect" that the agency will not be able to meet some requests as a result of the funds transfer.

"Only the final round of discretionary grants will be affected," says Huerta.

The FAA said on 27 April it would return to full staffing levels within 24h in anticipation of the bill being signed into law, after it cleared the Senate on 25 April and was passed by the House on 26 April. Obama signed the bill on 1 May, following a delay resulting from a typo in the bill.