In the most recent United Motorcoach Association (UMA) weekly Town Hall virtual meeting, the focus was on the much-needed economic aid to the industry. Both UMA leadership and members have been incredibly active in engaging with senators and congressmen to gain support of a package that would offer $10B in loans and grants to help the decimated motorcoach industry survive the pandemic, and the result is two bills—one each in the House and Senate—called the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act.
Both houses of Congress returned to Washington on July 20 for a brief—but critical—session before the next break in August. Much is at stake with many provisions of the CARES Act expiring this month, including the $600 unemployment supplement and moratorium on evictions, while the numbers of COVID-19 cases are once again rising in most states. At the time of the Zoom meeting on July 23, the Senate was at an impasse with an extension of the unemployment benefits, with Senate Republicans preferring a less generous package. It’s a dynamic situation that the UMA is following closely.
Although the CERTS Act was not yet part of the proposed relief package, Becky Weber of Prime Policy, UMA’s lobbying firm, said she was not concerned as talks were ongoing. She and UMA COO Ken Presley did encourage members to keep the engagement with Congress going—specifically targeting those who haven’t sponsored or expressed support of the bills—as the letters, calls, and meetings have all made an impact. Presley also noted that the Senate’s CERTS Act (S.4150) was now up to 14 sponsors and that they were specifically looking for additional Republican support. UMA has created a website to quickly and easily contact your representative at busesmoveamerica.com.
Presley and Weber also detailed some potential programs in the works, including a second round of the popular Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as well as an unnamed working capital loan that may serve as an alternative to the PPP. At the time of the meeting, funds were still available in the original PPP, with an extended application deadline of August 8.
Beyond financial assistance, many senators have been pushing for limited liability reform that would give numerous business sectors, including motorcoach operators, some protections against COVID-related liability lawsuits outside of gross negligence.
Additionally, Tracy Fickett of BusBooks, also a CPA, detailed how operators can maximize their PPP loan forgiveness and offered her advice on a variety of related issues faced by companies in the age of COVID.
UMA is running an informal and congenial competition between the states regarding Congressional outreach. Tens of thousands of letters have been sent to state representatives in the past few months, especially in the recent weeks leading to the introduction of the CERTS Act. As of July 27, UMA members from Illinois were leading the board.
Things are expected to change rapidly in Congress as the race against the clock is on. UMA will host its next weekly meeting on July 30; those who plan to attend should preregister for the meeting here.
Visit uma.org for more information.