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COVID-19 aid shores up Medford airport’s finances

Finances at the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport are being shored up by millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief. Photo courtesy of Jackson County

The Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport is weathering the pandemic in good financial shape thanks in large part to nearly $18.7 million in federal COVID-19 aid.

The airport may also get another $6 million in aid, said Jerry Brienza, airport director.

The airport will have up to four years to use the aid on reimbursable expenses, he said.

Nationwide, airports with commercial service are receiving about $20 billion in federal COVID-19 relief money, Brienza said.

The aviation industry was one of the hardest hit during the pandemic.

The airport set a record in 2019 with 1,088,000 passengers passing through, but numbers began plummeting in the spring of 2020 with the onset of the pandemic.

At its worst point, passenger counts at the airport fell by about 92% for almost two months before they started climbing again, Brienza said.

The airport finished 2020 with a total passenger count of 508,728 ― a 53% reduction from 2019, Brienza said.

The average number of flights per day fell from 48 in 2019 to 38 in 2020, he said.

“We kept all our service routes. So although the number of flights was down, we did not lose any destinations,” Brienza said.

During the pandemic, the airport actually gained four new routes to locations in California, Brienza said.

The airport worked with some of the airlines to renegotiate leases to defer some of their rent until they received grants that helped ensure their survival, he said.

Looking ahead, Brienza said analysts predict passenger counts will continue to recover this fiscal year, and then be back to full strength in the following year.

The airport’s recommended budget for the coming fiscal year that starts July 1 is $65 million, which is puffed up by $42.2 million in reserves, ending fund balances and contingency funds.

Governments must budget both the money they spend and money they save. The airport is run by Jackson County.

The airport’s adopted budget for the current fiscal year that ends June 30 is $62 million, with reserves, ending fund balances and contingency funds of $45 million.

This week, the Jackson County Citizens Budget Committee is continuing to review the county’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.

Covering all departments, the county’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year is $474 million, with $190.1 million in reserves, ending fund balances and contingency funds.

The adopted budget for the current fiscal year is $429.8 million, with nearly $173.6 million in savings.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.