Today Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act of 2020. This bipartisan legislation would provide $10 billion in emergency economic relief funding, in the form of grants (no less than 50 percent of total funding) and other economic assistance, through the U.S. Department of the Treasury, to motorcoach operators, school bus companies, U.S. flag passenger vessel operators, and other U.S. transportation service providers designated by the Secretary of the Treasury in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation.
In a bipartisan effort to obtain CARES Act assistance for the motorocach industry, Sens. Reed and Collins already penned a joint letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin urging federal support for bus and motorcoach businesses.
According to the ABA Foundation, the $15 billion-a-year motorcoach industry, which provides 600 million passenger trips annually, is currently operating at about 15 percent of capacity due to COVID-19. As a result, most of the nation’s 3,000 bus motorcoach companies have had to furlough employees and their 36,000 vehicles are stuck in parking lots instead of out on the road.
During the pandemic, motorcoaches have been used to help move U.S. National Guard forces and remove civilians from dangerous situations, such as natural disasters, or recently in evacuating cruise ship passengers affected by COVID-19.
Virtually every source of business and revenue for these companies has been severely restricted or eliminated. The abrupt closure of colleges, universities, and public schools, the cancellation of mass public events like concerts and sporting events, and the suspension of most tourism means that passenger levels are likely be depressed for many more months. Even as states reopen their economies, the public is likely to be wary of commercial bus travel until a vaccine or other measures eliminate the risk of illness from COVID-19.
For those companies still offering service, there will be significant additional operating costs as they observe public health recommendations for social distancing, cleaning, and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). These added costs come on top of already high overhead and insurance costs for the industry, with new buses, motorcoaches, or vessels costing $500,000 or more. And the vehicles in operation may require not only significant debt service, but also ongoing maintenance so they are ready when called upon.
While your senators are home during the July 4th recess, contact them and tell them to support the CERTS Act (S. 4150) and save our industry! Call them, email them, invite them to your business and show them how you help move America.
If you need contact information, call ABA's Government Affairs Team.