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The US Treasury Department and the country’s major airlines are reportedly in discussions over coronavirus-relief payments.

The development comes after US President Donald Trump signed a $2.2tn coronavirus-relief measure.

US Congress agreed to give passenger airlines $25bn in cash grants to cover payroll costs for six months through September.

More than 230 airline companies have applied for payroll grants. Around 12 airlines are expected to receive nearly $100m.

The grants were to be distributed from 6 April, but it has been delayed due to a proposal by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The Treasury has proposed a condition that may provide the government with an ownership stake in the leading US-based carriers such as American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines.

Airlines are said to hold more than 80% of the US air travel market.

Trade group Airlines for America spokeswoman said in a statement: “We believe the law indicated that the (direct aid) funding was to be only in grants, which is considerably more effective for our employees, and not a combination of grants and loans.

“This federal relief is critical to getting our employees paid and preventing furloughs right now, especially as our country is experiencing historically high unemployment claims.”

Meanwhile, Association of Flight Attendants president Sara Nelson was quoted by as saying: “This is not free money to the airlines, it’s money that is intended to keep people on the job and their paycheques going.

“The pace of this is seriously concerning. There are smaller carriers that are not going to make payroll this week without that money.”