House Democrats representing Washington state have urged Boeing to accept government aid to help weather the coronavirus pandemic after the plane maker's chief executive balked at the possibility of government equity stakes in exchange for the relief.
"Given the severe harm the nation's aerospace industry and hardworking women and men at the Boeing company are experiencing during this pandemic, we hope you will consider utilizing the economic assistance provided by the CARES Act to safeguard thousands of jobs at Boeing in Washington state and across the country," said a letter sent Monday to Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun. The letter was sent by Rep. Rick Larsen, a Democrat from the state and chairman of the House's aviation subcommittee. It was also signed by six other lawmakers from the state, where Boeing employs about 70,000 people.
Boeing has not yet decided whether it will apply for federal aid and is awaiting guidance from the Treasury Department about conditions and requirements for the relief, according to a person familiar with the matter. The $2 trillion aid package Congress approved last month includes billions for ailing businesses, including $17 billion in loans for "businesses critical to maintaining national security," of which Boeing is expected to qualify. Boeing last month said it was seeking $60 billion in aid for itself and its massive chain of suppliers.
Calhoun, in an interview with Fox Business Network last month, said he opposes the idea of a government equity stake in exchange for federal aid. Treasury Department guidelines for the $17 billion in loans released last month allow the government to receive a warrant or stake in the borrower.
"All we want is to make sure the credit markets are open for business," he said. If the government requires an equity stake, "we just look at all the other options and we got plenty of them."
Boeing announced Sunday it would indefinitely extend a shutdown of airplane production in the Seattle area. On Monday, the company said it would suspend operations at a plant in South Carolina where it makes 787 Dreamliner planes as the coronavirus continues to spread, halting Boeing's production of commercial aircraft.
More than 130 Boeing employees have tested positive for COVID-19, a spokesman said.
"Given the severe harm the nation's aerospace industry and hardworking women and men at the Boeing company are experiencing during this pandemic, we hope you will consider utilizing the economic assistance provided by the CARES Act to safeguard thousands of jobs at Boeing in Washington state and across the country," the lawmakers wrote.
They asked Boeing whether it would eliminate layoffs and maintain full pay and benefits as well as regular staffing "when medically safe," as well as what safeguards it would implement to prevent the spread of viruses in the future.