U.S. Representatives Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) and Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) successfully secured a legislative fix in the bipartisan fiscal year 2022 omnibus appropriations bill to allow for Dulles International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport to be reimbursed for expenses incurred while supporting Operation Allies Welcome. The operation has successfully aided the evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghans since last summer. Wexton and Scanlon, representatives of Dulles International and Philadelphia International, respectively, requested this fix in a letter to top appropriators in February.
"Our region stepped up big time to help our Afghan allies and vulnerable families safely resettle here in the U.S.," said Rep. Wexton. "But while Dulles Airport increased staffing, enhanced security, and stood up screening centers within days, they were inadvertently locked out of federal funding that was intended for exactly this kind of effort. I'm proud that Rep. Scanlon and I have successfully corrected this error through our bipartisan appropriations omnibus and look forward to Dulles being fully reimbursed for their team's remarkable efforts to welcome Afghan evacuees here to America."
"The team at Dulles International Airport was proud to answer our country's call to support this historic mission, and we truly appreciate the leadership of Representative Wexton, as well as Senators Kaine and Warner, in providing for reimbursement of the costs incurred in helping bring these evacuees safely to America," said John E. Potter, President & CEO Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
"Both Philadelphia International Airport and Dulles International Airport answered the call when our federal government asked them to aid vulnerable Afghans arriving in the United States -- knowing these efforts would surely add staffing, logistical, and financial challenges to their operations. But they stepped up anyway because it was what our country needed," said Rep. Scanlon. "I was proud to work with Rep. Wexton to ensure PHL and Dulles are able to get reimbursed for expenses incurred while supporting Operation Allies Welcome, and I am thrilled we're now able to deliver those reimbursements thanks to the Fiscal Year 2022 government spending package passed this week."
The historic Operation Allies Welcome program has been made possible by nonprofits, aid groups, and regular volunteers from across the region stepping up to ensure vulnerable Afghans were safely cared for as they arrived here in the U.S. However, unlike other organizations that have assisted with refugee assistance and resettlement, the airports had not been eligible for reimbursement by any programs supported by the $13.85 billion Congress has provided for the operation. A provision in the fiscal year 2022 appropriations omnibus, passed by the House this week, corrects this eligibility error.
Dulles International and Philadelphia International have welcomed more than 300 flights and 80,000 evacuees since Operation Allies Welcome began in August 2021. To accommodate the influx of evacuees as well as facilitate necessary health and security measures, the airports established makeshift centers for medical screenings and vaccinations, increased staffing capacity, and enhanced public safety measures. The expenditures have totaled more than $2 million thus far.