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Trump Budget Grounds Air Service Program for Rural Areas

by Countable | 6.21.17

Here's something you might not know: your taxpayer dollars fund a program that makes it possible for airlines to continue flights to smaller, rural airports. The Essential Air Service program, or EAS, is meant to link people in more isolated communities to locations across the U.S. and the world, as well as help those communities attract jobs and industry to their areas.

The program costs $175 million in federal funds -- all of which are slashed in President Trump's current budget proposal.

Now, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is hoping to protect rural air service from that funding cut. Nine senators, led by Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE), submitted a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao seeking her support in protecting the EAS program.

In their letter, lawmakers argued that, "EAS provides critical support for rural communities across America, keeping our communities connected to friends, family, and the regional and global marketplace...A reduction in support could lead to a reduction in services and ultimately in jobs for rural America."

Critics argue that the federal government is paying to fly empty planes to and from airports, many of which are driving-distance to mid-sized airport hubs.

On its website, the Department of Transportation (DOT) explains the history and mission of the Essential Air Service:

"The Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), passed in 1978, gave air carriers almost total freedom to determine which markets to serve domestically and what fares to charge for that service. The Essential Air Service (EAS) program was put into place to guarantee that small communities that were served by certificated air carriers before airline deregulation maintain a minimal level of scheduled air service.”

Through the EAS the federal government provides subsidies per passenger to allow for regular flights to and from 60 communities in Alaska, another 115 in the lower contiguous 48 states and 2 in Hawaii. Without the subsidies, the DOT states that these communities "would not receive any scheduled air service."

Congress is currently in negotiations over the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation administration, or FAA, and its upcoming budget. So lawmakers will be intensely discussing the fate of the Essential Air Service program in coming weeks, as well as President Trump's proposed privatization of federal air traffic control.

Should Congress continue to subsidize flights to rural airports? Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(48)
  • Gail
    06/21/2017
    ···

    I wonder when people who voted for Trump will figure out that he doesn't give a damn about them, any more than he does the rest of America. His interest lies where it always has, stuffing his pockets with money. Slashing funds to rural communities while helping the rich proves it.

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  • Anne
    06/21/2017
    ···

    I keep wondering how else the Republican Party can handicap the middle and low income American. This program works two ways; flying people in to rural (isolated) areas AND flying people out under normal AND emergency situations. I see cut after cut being posed and passed; it seems the only expenditures being passed are those pertaining to the military. Such trends, historically, precede wars. Please, please prevent this trend!

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  • Jenna
    06/21/2017
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    This program needs to continue. Perhaps fewer trips to golf resorts on the weekends would be a good start in finding the funds for this program.

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  • Ann
    06/21/2017
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    Congress absolutely should continue to subsidize these flights in rural areas. Places like northern Alaska where there are no roads between villages rely on them.

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  • Cindy
    06/22/2017
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    Who's paying for Trumps trips to Mar A Lago??

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  • Janet
    06/21/2017
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    In rural Alaska we can only get small planes. It's extremely important mode of transportation. We have no roads that connect us to other cities. Only mode of transportation is small planes, boats in the summer and snow machine in the winter. Though last how many winters snow hasn't been good so travel has been minimal. Winters have been steadily been getting warmer. Snow used to cover chimneys back during my parents childhood, and during my childhood up to my waist. Now it barely gets to ankle or mid calf height. If this affects our small planes it'll be devastating, especially with low number of Chinook Salmon in Kuskokwim Area, which if no planes come in, people who may or may not be able to order food or go to a store will have no means of getting food of any type.

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  • Kerry
    06/21/2017
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    Please vote NO on defunding the EAS program. This is an important program providing critical service in rural areas.

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  • JaredThePoet
    06/22/2017
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    Rural people deserve better than this, without middle America, there would be no agriculture, and our resources wouldn't be as readily available to the rest of the U.S.

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  • Ticktock
    06/21/2017
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    I believe that the Essential Air Serve is no longer necessary in the continuous 48 states. Due to the topography and population density of Alaska and islands of Puerto Rico and Hawaii this service should be continued. The cost of this program is $268 million and the subsidies cost per passenger rangers from $10 to $977 as of 2014. In this era of budget constraints this program's foot print could be reduced considerably.

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  • Dawn
    06/22/2017
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    Please do not defund EAS!

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  • evelynpsims
    06/22/2017
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    Our nation needs actions that bring us together. Many citizens in our country's rural areas rely on this program that supports their only means to reach a major metropolitan area. Prior to returning to Texas, I lived in such a rural area and was very happy to have a small regional airport nearby. In pulling this program we only isolate ourselves further

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  • Linda
    06/23/2017
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    Regarding airline cuts to Rural America. I'm proud of all the people fighting against Trump's cuts that they know hurt the people that voted for him. It would be so tempting to just say, "screw it, let his voters get what they deserve." Once again, the democrats put people before party by expressing their concerns and fighting budget cuts while knowing this. Go Dems! The true party of the people!!

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  • John
    06/22/2017
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    General aviation is one of the things that differentiates the US and makes us great

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  • Ureeka
    06/22/2017
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    Excellent. The states should have control over what they subsidize. The federal budget cannot continue to fund everything when they are staring at a $20,000,000,000,000 debt. Democrats who believe otherwise are clueless and deserve to lose more elections.

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  • Kyle
    06/21/2017
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    This seems like one of those almost emergency services that us Americans have in place to ensure safety. On that front I'd say we need this system but then again I haven't looked at the economics of it and it might be a program that is better ran by the private industry rather than federally.

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  • Anrael
    06/22/2017
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    Colorado has many rural areas. Living in one myself, as a social worker it was very hard at times to fine people airlifts to be with sick and or dying family members, let alone have tourism dollars come in through that portal. Slash and burn Don't Care budget and programs, orders and laws of this administration and congress continue. Federal govt does nothing but war and infrastructure, period. All tax monies go to those two things which goes into the pockets of corporations who do less-than-adequate bottom line is profit for investors jobs. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Tick tick tock, our eyes are on the clock. Elections are a-comin' me Boyce's.

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  • Amanda
    06/22/2017
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    As an Alaskan who lived rurally until very recently, I can speak to how important these services are! We depend on them for medical care, mail, packages, visiting friends, and educational opportunities. For part of the year you can snowmachine between villages, and for part of the year you can use a boat. But if it's too dangerous, too cold, during break up, etc we would be out of luck without this very important system.

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  • Marc
    06/21/2017
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    This is stupid just plain stupid.

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  • VSB
    06/21/2017
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    America counts on rural America for so much from agriculture to oil production. EAS should continue to be funded. We cannot isolate these communities and take away their hospitals and health care. The GOP should consider many Trump supporters live in these communities.

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  • Patty
    06/21/2017
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    Please continue to support the Essential Air service program. Business in rural areas would suffer and increase jobless rates in rural areas.

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