Making progress! After months of letter writing, phone calls, and in-person meetings urging members of Congress to assist the COVID-shuttered bus and motorcoach industry, Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) have introduced a bill that would be part of the next round of pandemic economic relief. The Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services Act (CERTS Act, S. 4150) calls for $10 billion in grants and loans that would aid the industry in the long-haul recovery that is expected for the travel and tourism sector. The emergency assistance would be facilitated through the Department of the Treasury and with guidance from the Secretary of Transportation.
This bill is specific to over-the-road private motorcoach operators including those that provide services for local and intercity fixed routes, commuters, charters and tours, and school transportation.
These legislative efforts were coordinated and spearheaded by the United Motorcoach Association (UMA), the American Bus Association (ABA), the National School Transportation Association, the Passenger Vessel Association, and the Amalgamated Transit Union, and through the intensive efforts of their members and supporters.
Although the bill is still in its infancy, some of the proposed key highlights include:
- Not less than 50 percent of the amount will be used to provide grants.
- Funding for an over-the-road bus company may not exceed their 2019 calendar year revenue.
- Operators must recall or rehire any employee laid off, furloughed, or terminated because of reduced service and maintain employment through December 31, 2020 (pay, paid administrative leave, and paid benefits as of the date of enactment).
- Funds can be used for continued operations and maintenance of existing capital equipment and facilities including rent, leases, insurance payments, and debt service, as well as any special COVID requirements (PPE, Plexiglas barriers, cleaning materials).
Because the bill is time sensitive and the legislative window is quickly closing for the summer, UMA and ABA are urging members, vendors, suppliers, and supporters of the industry to take action and keep the pressure on the Senate to take action. The associations have created a form letter that can immediately be sent to Congress, which can be found at busesmoveamerica.com.