The leading national bus associations—the United Motorcoach Association (UMA) and the American Bus Association (ABA)—continue to fight for federal funding to help operators who have been impacted by COVID and they need your help. The Delta variant introduces new wrinkles in the industry’s recovery, making travelers and state officials nervous. As Congress is working on the Biden administration’s $3.5T American Jobs and Families Plan reconciliation bill, both ABA and UMA hope that industry-supporting lawmakers will include another $6B for the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act, the $2B program that was included in the Trump administration’s final COVID relief package back in December 2020.
The long-awaited CERTS program finally opened to applications in June 2021, with more than 2,000 companies submitting paperwork for the funding (1,600 of them motorcoach operators) by the July deadline. ABA Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs Suzanne Rohde said that more than 1,500 of those applications have been approved with an average allocation of $1.3M. Approved companies started receiving funds on August 11, which is expected to be allocated to operators over two payments (80 percent and 20 percent).
However, the Treasury Department recently announced that the companies in the motorcoach industry, school bus, passenger vessel, and pilot vessel industries lost collective revenues of $8.7 billion in 2020—which doesn’t account for 2021 and the roller-coaster openings and shutdowns. The original CERTS push in 2020 called for $10B in funding, which was reduced to $8B and finally passed at $2B.
Thanks to a robust grassroots effort among the associations, operators, and suppliers nationwide, the CERTS Act garnered the support of a full two-thirds of both houses—which is needed again. The American Jobs and Families Plan is slated for a late September vote (after Congress returns from its August recess), so the associations are urging operators and industry supporters to contact members of Congress immediately. Both the UMA and ABA have set up easy portals to connect operators with their members of Congress:
“Our businesses are essential components of our nation’s infrastructure and critical to our nation’s security,” said UMA President & CEO Larry Killingsworth in Bus & Motorcoach News. “Originally, CERTS was to be funded at $8 billion to save our industry. Upon final passage, the amount was cut down to $2 billion, despite the critical needs of our businesses.”
“Things are being reevaluated with the Delta variants,” said Rohde during a recent ABA webinar. “The future is very uncertain and now is the time to be advocating for additional funding for [this] program.” She added, “The program is already in existence, we just need more funding added to it.”
Rohde also encouraged operators who have been approved for CERTS funding to read the Treasury’s updated FAQs and other paperwork (updated 8.12) to ensure that they are complying with the terms of the grant. The money is to be used for payroll costs (at least 60 percent), as well as acquisition of services, equipment, including PPE and protection measures from COVID for workers and customers; continued operations and maintenance of existing equipment and facilities; rent, leases and insurance; and interest on regular debt service. Visit the Treasury’s CERTS page here.