WASHINGTON D.C. (WCMH) — Thousands of airline employees worry they could be furloughed next week if Congress doesn’t throw their industry another lifeline.

Illinois Republican Representative Rodney Davis flew in to Washington D.C. on Tuesday.

“There were 12 people on a 737,” Davis said.

Davis says no industry can survive with that few customers, and he wants Congress to extend a program to keep the airlines flying.

“We’ve got to make sure we keep our businesses in place, especially industries like our airlines,” he said.

The $32 billion payroll support program was created for the airlines as part of the CARES Act.
It’s been a lifeline for the industry but expires on October 1.

“The most successful element of the CARES package was the payroll support program,” said Oregon Democratic Representative Peter DeFazio.

DeFazio joined Davis, along with airline CEO’s and union leaders, to urge Congress to quickly re-up the payroll support program.

“There are several ways that can be done, ideally it would be through a COVID relief bill,” said American Airlines CEO Doug Parker.

Airline officials like Parker say there’s no question tens of thousands employees will be furloughed on October 1 if Congress fails to act.

“This is a mother and a father who are both flight attendants, on the furlough list, with a special needs son who are in jeopardy of losing their medical insurance that takes care of him,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants.

Some in Congress fear the impact mass furloughs would have on the greater economy, which continues a slow recovery.

“I do believe there’s going to be some bipartisan consensus to help the airlines,” Davis said.

But it’s unlikely the payroll support program could be extended on it’s own, and Congress shows no signs of agreeing on another major COVID-19 relief bill before election day.