President's budget leaves future of services up in the air

By  | 

HARRISON COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) - President Donald Trump's budget blueprint calls for the elimination of the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, which provides federal dollars for rural communities like those in north central West Virginia.

The EAS program, which costs taxpayers about $175 million per year, subsidizes air carriers that fly out of rural airports.

"We gotta not forget about rural America and for rural America to prosper--which it needs to for our whole country to do well--the Essential Air Service program is a big part of that," said Rick Rock, director of the North Central West Virginia Airport in Clarksburg.

The program helped the airport strike a deal with Via Air last year. With a federal subsidy of $2.3 million, the airline's flights connect passengers from Clarksburg to hubs like Charlotte and Baltimore. If EAS is eliminated, that daily schedule could be upended.

"We'll have to find a way to come up with the funding locally or we lose the air service and that connectivity to the global network," Rock said.

And he worries limiting that global network could have a domino effect on businesses. That's a sentiment some of you shared with us.

"The restaurants and the hotels and all of it, [the airport] affects everybody really," said Ed Rosky, a Clarksburg resident who used to fly frequently out of the airport for business. "I think it's a vital part for new development in the area. I'd hate to see them lose it."

Rock cautioned the airport itself would not be in jeopardy of closing if the program ends, but daily service could be interrupted. The airport would still have Allegiant Air, but Via has a wider scope of service.

5 News also reached out to Congressman David McKinley's office. His voting record in the past has reflected his support for the program, but a spokesperson would not comment on the potential cuts. He did, however, offer this statement:

"Please remember, the President offers his blueprint to a budget and it's Congress that actually writes the budget."

Rock says he has met with Rep. McKinley recently. He describes what that conversation was like in the video above.