Stimulus Money Formula Accidentally Gives Small Airports Millions more than Large Airports

Julia Guilbeau


As stimulus money rolls in across the nation, many airports are seeing disproportionate numbers in their stimulus grants that are out of proportion, but these numbers are soon to be reevaluated.

Controversy arose in mid-April when the stimulus lump sums were announced for airports across the nation. Many small airports have received millions of dollars more in grants than other major airports. In Louisiana, the Lake Charles Regional airport received a sum significantly greater than the other major airports, excluding the New Orleans airport. Yet the Lake Charles airport makes up only a small percentage of Louisiana air travel, around 4%.

According to Steven Picou, the executive director of the Lafayette airport, the Federal Aviation Administration is looking at the amount of awards given to the airports by the CARE package, the stimulus relief passed in Congress in late March. They are currently trying to help readjust the numbers and the formula used to help redetermine airport stimulus sums across the country.

The smallest of the major Louisiana airports, Lake Charles Regional, was awarded $18.1 million according to The Advocate. Meanwhile, other airports such as Lafayette only received $2.8 million.

Compared to the other seven major airports in Louisiana, the Lake Charles airport sees the least amount of activity.

Lake Charles Regional had the lowest number of passengers boarding in the state in 2018, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration. The number of boarding passengers the airport saw was almost 50% less than the Monroe airport, the second smallest major airport in the state.

The Lake Charles airport also had significantly less miles traveled per passenger than the other airports, according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The $2.8 million that Lafayette Regional, the fourth most active airport, received will cover operating costs for about six months, according to Picou.

Picou said that the airport is grateful for any amount of stimulus money, but that a larger sum could have helped cover more of their operating costs through the pandemic. He also said that fund amounts may need to be adjusted.

“It was a formula that just needed to be adjusted prior to implementation and that didn’t happen. Now there is talk of them adjusting it again,” said Picou.

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