MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced $3,259,485 from the American Rescue Plan for 10 West Virginia airports. This funding is distributed through the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide economic relief and increase safety precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Morgantown Municipal Airport is one of the 10 airports receiving funding. It will receive $59,000, which will go to covering operational costs. Airport Director Jonathon Vrabel said the money is much-needed.
The purpose of this grant is to cover operational expenses for COVID losses, and that’s exactly what we’re using it for. You know, we have a number of things that need to be done at the airport that we need funding for. This will help us obtain some of those items that we needed. For instance, there is a need for a new device that has to be added to our crash, fire and rescue truck, so we’re going to use, you know, some of the money to offset that cost and in purchasing that type of equipment. We use it for all types of operational needs and in fixing or obtaining services that we need for the airport to keep the operations going, so it’s very helpful. You know, with losses due to COVID, the last year and a half — we don’t have the same level of income coming in, so it is very helpful for us to keep our operations moving forward.Jonathon Vrabel – Airport Director
When COVID first hit, Vrabel said, the airport took a 90 percent hit in activity and revenue in the first month. For the next couple of months after that, the airport was only at 35-40 percent capacity.
But things have gotten better over time. Vrabel said it’s not back to 100 percent quite yet. However, it’s at 85 percent, which is encouraging.
“We’re still climbing out of that hole that was dug a year and a half ago,” Vrabel said.
This $59,000 injection is just the latest federal funding. Throughout the pandemic, there have been several streams of federal funding that have helped the airport, Vrabel said.
“One is the direct injection of money like this small grant to help with operational expenses,” Vrabel said. “But, I think, the bigger portion that’s really helped us more so is with the runway extension project. Because normally we have to come up with a 10% local match for all of our construction projects. Well, with COVID, the federal government has done the local match for us, so because of these different acts that have been there to help our economy recovery, those acts have provided that local match for us.”
He continued by explaining that the government aid has helped the city in addition to the airport because those state funds stay in the area. “The city’s able to reinvest that money into the city itself. The airport has been able to use those funds to reinvest into the airport itself,” he said.
Vrabel said the city has been grateful every step away for the federal assistance.
“We’re thankful that, you know, we received these funds from the federal government,” Vrabel said. “And we are looking forward to our economy recovering and hopefully, that’ll be, you know, sooner than later.”