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House Stimulus Bill Would Require Face Masks For Air Passengers And Crew

Require Face Masks
Photo by Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash

House Stimulus Bill Would Require Face Masks For Passengers And Crew

On Tuesday, House Democrats released a new stimulus bill in response to the continuing coronavirus pandemic.  The 1,815-page bill covers many topics including, stimulus payments, hazard pay, and money for states and territories.  The bill comes in at a whopping $3 trillion.

The bill also addresses pandemic relief for aviation workers and passengers.  As part of that section, the bill would require passengers and crew to wear face masks while on board the plane and require an aviation preparedness plan from the Department of Transportation.

Face Covering Requirement

The bill says such a requirement will be in place for the duration of the national emergency declared by President Trump.  Specifically, the bill says any air carrier operating under Part 121 of Title 14:

(1) require each passenger and cabin crewmember to wear a mask or protective face covering while on board an aircraft for the air carrier;

(2) require each flight crewmember to wear a mask or protective face covering while on board an aircraft but outside the flight deck.

Of course, many U.S. airlines already have face mask requirements on their aircraft.  But the bill would set a federal requirement that includes a mandatory face mask policies.  Included in this provision is language that would require airlines to provide PPE to public-facing employees.  The bill does not require air carriers to provide passengers with face masks.

The stimulus bill also requires passengers and crew on Amtrak to wear face coverings.  Amtrak recently announced it was implementing a mandatory face mask requirement.

Aviation Preparedness Plan

The bill also requires the Secretary of Transportation to develop a national aviation preparedness plan for communicable disease outbreaks.  The plan specifically calls on the Secretary to:

Provide airports and air carriers with an adaptable and scalable framework with which to align the individual plans of such airports and air carriers and provide appropriate guidance as to each individual plan.

This portion of the bill seems to aim to align each air carrier and airport plan to meed certain guidelines.  Overall, the plan ensures at-risk employees have access to PPE, more federal coordination for contact tracing, and ensure cleaning standards.

Proposed Bill

Of course, this is just a proposal and it is far from becoming the law of the land.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate GOP declared the bill “dead on arrival.”  While the bill is most likely set to pass the House on Friday, that could be its end. If the Senate is willing to take up another stimulus, it will likely look very different from this bill.

Bottom Line

The Democrats’s new stimulus requires passengers and crew members to wear face masks on board.  The bill is highly unlikely to pass, given the Senate GOP’s unwillingness for a another stimulus package right now.

But the bill does provide insight on how Democrats view the face mask issue.  While there has been a lot of discussion about mandatory social distancing on airplanes, it’s clear some in government favor mandatory requirements.  It will be interesting to see if this leads to more discussion on this topic.

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