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49 airports in Colorado to split nearly $367 million in relief funds

Overall, $10 billion was apportioned for U.S. airports in the recently passed CARES Act to combat the economic downturn of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COLORADO, USA — It's no small business, but it's still a business. Denver International Airport is eligible to receive a quarter billion dollars in stimulus aid from the federal government.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) can provide $10 billion to airports. The CARES Act is the same stimulus package providing $1,200 stimulus checks to individuals, along with financial help for small businesses and those who are now unemployed.

In Colorado, 49 airports will get nearly $367 million.

DIA will get the most: $269 million.

"I can tell you without a doubt that the biggest economic engine in the state of Colorado is Denver International Airport," said Kirk Shaffer, FAA Associate Administrator for Airports.

Colorado Springs Municipal Airport will get $24 million.

Aspen-Pitkin County Airport will get $3.4 million.

Centennial Airport and Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport will get $157,000 each.

Significant amounts of money that will also help you at home.

"Everything that anybody orders that shows up on their front porch, it comes on a train or a ship or a real car or an airplane, and pretty soon on a drone, and so the economy of this nation is based upon transportation," said Shaffer. "They ensure that those small communities have emergency aerial medical evacuation services. They ensure that they have overnight package delivery, in the event of a flood or a forest fire or something like that, that they have disaster relief services."

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What can an airport spend the money on?

The main purpose is to make sure airport employees stay employed.

"To cover their operating expenses. To keep their employees on the payroll, so that they can support their families, pay the bills, shop for groceries. And also, pay airport bills," said Shaffer.

On February 27, DIA had 1,217 employees.

On March 27, DIA had 1,222 employees.

A DIA spokeswoman said the airport has a hiring freeze and that the increase in employees is likely from new hires still working their way through a long process.

DIA has not laid anyone off as a result of COVID-19. So, if the airport doesn't need the stimulus money for payroll, what could it be used on? Better question: will the stimulus money become a bailout of sorts for DIA's management of the Great Hall project that resulted in the airport and the original contractor agreeing to part ways.

"Paying the bills for a development project is a lawful use of airport revenue," said Shaffer.

Normally, DIA would pay for construction costs through the revenue it collects from parking and from concession and retail revenue.

From April 5-11, 19,242 people passed through TSA checkpoints at DIA. During that same time period in 2019, it was 395,990 travelers. What DIA saw last week is the equivalent of what it saw in eight hours during the same week in 2019.

Airport parking revenue is down in March, too.

The airport had half as many transactions in the parking areas and took in half as much money from the year prior.


  • March 2020: 175,781
  • March 2019: 363,986

Revenue (unaudited):

  • March 2020: $8,138,981
  • March 2019: $16,608,938

DIA CEO Kim Day declined an interview.

In an email, a DIA spokeswoman said: "The Great Hall project is being financed through existing bond proceeds and not the stimulus funds. DEN anticipates to spend the stimulus to cover our debt service requirements and keep the airport financially sound."

DIA must continue to show bondholders that the airport is using money wisely, even if it is stimulus money.

The airport does also have a significant piggy bank. DIA has enough money to operate without receiving revenue for 500 days (approximately $700 million).

However, the airport spends the stimulus money will be subject to scrutiny.

"This money is all accountable. At the end of the day, the president, [Transportation] Secretary [Elaine] Chao, [FAA] Administrator [Steve] Dickson and I, want to be able to look the taxpayers in the eye and show them exactly where each dollar went, and be able to demonstrate to the folks who ultimately pay the bills for all of us, that it was used for lawful airport revenue purposes and especially to keep folks employed through this national emergency," said Shaffer.

> A complete list of airports receiving money can be found here.



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