BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Thanksgiving week at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport did not look like other airports across the country. While busier than it has been during the pandemic, it still only saw a fraction of the pre-pandemic 7,500 passenger daily average.
“Typically we would see a very huge tidal wave of people coming home to Western New York to see family and relatives and friends, but we’re just not seeing it," NFTA Aviation Director William Vanecek said.
Ridership is down 80% at the airport and the number of flights are cut in half. These days Vanecek tries to remain optimistic, but said his earlier hopes of travelers returning at the beginning of the year are fading.
“I don’t see the situation getting much better, I would say if we can hit that summer season that might be the next hope," Vanecek said.
Working against the airport is the border remaining closed and low travel confidence in passengers. Canadian travelers alone account for 30% of its business. That is part of the reason why Vanecek said the airport needs federal help.
“I think the federal government will have to step up and provide some sort of relief for these businesses or else it will become a very, very unhappy new year," Vanecek said.
It is not just airports, airlines and the like asking for federal help. Several pandemic assistance programs are set to end next month.
The programs on track to expire by the end of the year include:
-the pause on student loan payments
-Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
-Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation
“For the first time we’re having some productive conversations in a while because leader McConnell said he will sit down and talk," said U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer last week, renewing hope on what was thought to be a dead stimulus bill.
Over the weekend, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also wrote a letter to Congress asking for more federal help for New Yorkers.
“I think there is a path forward here to put an emergency bill together by the end of the bill," Republican Congressman Tom Reed said in a media call with reporters earlier this week.
Reed -- who sits on the Problem Solvers Caucus -- said the bipartisan group has had talks with the White House. He is confident the President would sign a “targeted relief package," but is frustrated there is pushback from the administration over prioritizing election results in Georgia.
“If you’re not going to do a deal for the American people than get the heck out of the way and let leaders of Congress like myself and other colleagues in the Problem Solvers Caucus as well as members of the Senate that want to put the people first, let us in the room and we’ll do the job for you and you can get the heck out," Reed said.
The targeted relief package is “significantly smaller” than the original $1.8 trillion bill pitched, but Reed said it would bring much needed relief through March 1st. Reed is hoping the bill gets passed within the next two weeks.
“For right now it is just let’s do what’s right, get it done and just take another bite at the apple if you need one on March first," said Reed.