As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the motorcoach industry, United Motorcoach Association COO Ken Presley opened the association’s September 17 virtual Town Hall meeting with some encouraging news.
With negotiations for a new relief package continually breaking down in Congress, Presley was optimistic about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s commitment for the House to remain in their districts so a vote can be made on a new plan. Furthermore, President Trump has encouraged Republicans to table their debt fears. However, the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (which broke the day after the Town Hall) could derail any progress in the other chamber as Senate Republicans scramble to secure votes for Trump’s expected nominee.
Presley pointed out three different plans that are in play among Congress: The $3.4 trillion HEROES Act, the $600 billion Republican “skinny” bill, and a $1.5 trillion Problem Solvers Caucus bill, which was developed by a bipartisan group of 50 Congress members. Presley believes that a second round of PPP is guaranteed at the very least, but believes it is likely that a package will include the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act, an add-on bill that provides direct relief to the motorcoach industry with $10B in grants and loans.
“The work that everyone has done has been simply phenomenal in support of CERTS,” said UMA President & CEO Larry Killingsworth. “Keep pushing… we’re building awareness state by state.”
At the time of the Town Hall, 45 senators and 151 House representatives were backing the CERTS Act. Killingsworth added that while the delays in relief were frustrating, it allowed more time for senators to become aware of the challenges faced by the motorcoach industry and jump on board the bill.
Support for the CERTS Act transcends Washington, however. During the meeting, Killingsworth shared a taped message made by Dean Sams of the country band Lonestar. In the video, Sams makes a plea for Congress to take action and assist the motorcoach industry, as it is an essential part of the live music industry.
Next, Rich Broughton of Triple J in Las Vegas was invited to introduce Stephen Akermann, transportation security inspector for the Department of Homeland Security, who is part of an outreach program to handle security for motorcoach businesses in Nevada. As an inspector whose focus largely consists of mom-and-pop operations, he offered his support to the hurting industry. In terms of security advice, he encouraged operators and their drivers/chauffeurs to be proactive regarding exactly who/what is getting on each bus.
As it had been more than two months since the UMA offered an equipment finance panel, Mike Denny of MCI and David Scoular of Prevost were on the call to keep operators up to date as to what they can expect from lenders in the coming weeks. While many lenders are considering a third round of payment modifications, they are very reluctant to do so, and Denny and Scoular offered up some advice for operators entering negotiations with their financial institutions. First and foremost, they advise owners to be patient with their banks and lenders, as they are also struggling in these uncharted waters. Second, be prepared to “tell a story”: Be accurate about the state of your business and cash burn, while offering up examples what are you doing to find new business. Further, provide a clear forecast for 2021 as well as details on insurance and maintenance. Lenders like to know that their investment (or more accurately, their collateral) is being protected. As the used bus market is at a low, the vehicle is better in your hands than a repo lot, which is advantageous for operators during negotiations.
Before the meeting concluded, Killingsworth informed members that the UMA Safety Management Seminar is going virtual and will be held December 1-3. The organization’s Risk Management Committee is currently working on agenda. Sign up information will be provided in the coming weeks.
The next UMA Town Hall is scheduled for September 24 at 2PM ET. Registration is required.
Visit uma.org for more information.