Unalaska has been granted $1,120,265 from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — or CARES Act — for its airport.
The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which released $124.17 million for Alaskan airports to offset impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic last week.
The grants — which will help 257 airports across the state — are to support maintenance and operations and replace lost revenue resulting from the decline in aviation traffic during this time.
The City of Unalaska is still working to understand how those funds can be used. While the money can "be used for any aviation expense including airport operating expenses, airport debt service payments, capital projects, and more," according to John MacKinnon, DOT&PF Commissioner, it is unclear whether some of the funds can be put towards expanding airport capacities.
According to the FAA, a recipient of a CARES grant that wishes to use the funds for new airport development or construction must meet additional requirements and "contact its local Airports District Office or Airports Regional Office to make arrangements to do so."
"To make these critical CARES funds available as quickly as possible, the FAA is issuing non-construction grants that permit expenditure for airport operating expenses (such as payroll) and to pay airport debt service," reads an FAA document from April 17.
Following a fatal plane crash in Unalaska last October, and months of uncertainty surrounding the status of flights, there have been discussions to extend the runway to make it possible to fly larger planes to the island.
A 2008 report estimated that improving Tom Madsen Airport to "be fully functional" could cost between $140 and $230 million. But City Manager Erin Reinders said in February that it's too soon to estimate the cost of a renovation, which will likely be a years-long process.