Treasury Watchdog Is Auditing Airline Aid to Smaller Carriers

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(Bloomberg) -- The Treasury Department’s internal watchdog is auditing a $32 billion package of aid earmarked to support employees at passenger airlines, cargo carriers and related contractors included in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.

The probe will review documentation detailing salaries, wages and other information submitted to the Treasury under the payroll aid program by carriers, typically smaller ones that don’t normally report that information to the Transportation Department.

The inspector general’s office at Treasury will assess the implementation of the program in addition to documentation submitted by carriers seeking the aid, among other issues, according to a March 30 memo tweeted Tuesday by the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee of inspectors generals throughout the federal government.

The audit was opened as part of oversight required in the stimulus legislation, according to the memo, which did not specify any complaints about the payroll aid had been made.

The funds were allocated to prevent sweeping job losses in the commercial aviation sector that’s been rocked by a more than 90% decline in passenger demand. The stimulus package allocated $25 billion for employees at passenger airlines, $4 billion for cargo haulers and $3 billion for contractors such as caterers and ground support staff.

The bulk of the $25 billion for passenger carriers went to the largest U.S. airlines. American Airlines Group Inc. received $5.8 billion in payroll assistance, the most of any company, while United Airlines Holdings Inc. got $5.4 billion and Delta Air Lines Inc. secured $5 billion, according to government figures.

More than 90 other companies have received funds under the payroll aid program, ranging from luxury charter carriers to companies flying tourists on sea planes in the Alaskan back country.

Multiple overlapping federal watchdogs are monitoring whether congressionally mandate spending is making its way as intended to struggling corporations, local businesses and hospitals.

On Monday, the Congressional Oversight Commission reported that the Treasury Department has spent only $37.5 billion thus far of a $500 billion pool of funds Congress provided to help struggling businesses, including airlines.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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