Jun 07 2017

Transportation Secretary Chao Shares Support for Rural Communities

In Response to Fischer Questions Chao Says She’s Working Toward Solutions for Essential Air Service Program

Click here or on the image above for video from today’s hearing.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today participated in a hearing focused on key aviation issues before the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as the Senate considers reauthorization of the FAA. In today’s hearing, Fischer questioned Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao about the Essential Air Service (EAS) Program.

This program incentivizes air carriers to provide service to underserved and rural areas. It is critical to ensuring air service continues for Nebraska's rural communities. Several of Nebraska’s small and community airports, such as Alliance, Chadron, Grand Island, McCook, North Platte, Kearney, and Scottsbluff, benefit from a continuation of the EAS program.

Below is an excerpt of Senator Fischer’s exchange with Secretary Chao from today’s hearing:

Sen. Fischer: …I know you have mentioned the needs in rural America and it’s very critical that we have that access to our communities and families and the businesses so that they take advantage of opportunities that come with having air service. I am concerned about the elimination of the congressional appropriations for essential air service in the president’s budget request. Can you tell us what the administration plans to do? What their intentions are concerning rural communities? How are you going to ensure that these rural areas in America still have that access to air service? As you know, we are a large state and sparsely populated. And if rural America is going to be able to grow and thrive, essential air service is a big part of that. What are the intentions of your department with regards to that?

Sec. Chao: It is unfortunate that the EAS’ program was restructured the way it is. I am working within the administration to see how we can address that. I am hopeful that I will have a partial solution, very shortly.

Sen. Fischer: I would be happy to work with you on that as well, and I know there are many members of this committee where the essential air service plays a big part in keeping areas in our states connected and continuing to grow and have opportunities for economic growth. So I hope that you feel free to reach out to me and other members of this committee to try and work through the problems that I see with the request that’s come down from the administration.

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