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Pennsylvania Bus Association letter to Congress on stimulus

Dear Representative: I’m asking you to reconsider a serious oversight made in the third stimulus package recently passed by Congress where you overlooked the U.S. motorcoach industry. This last package specifically earmarked grants and loans for the airlines, airports, public transit and Amtrak, with no mention of our industry even after we reached out to Congress, the Senate and the White House for help. Our industry provides 600 million passenger trips annually, almost as many as the airlines. But today, across the country, nearly every motorcoach business including mine have shut their doors and laid-off employees, and this means permanent closure for many. The U.S. motorcoach industry provides essential transportation services to this nation, and I urge you and your colleagues to not overlook our plight. We specifically need you to direct grants-in-aid and loans to the U.S. motorcoach industry, like the airlines, to save our employees and our industry.

The U.S. motorcoach industry’s role in the national transport network may not be widely understood, but motorcoach companies play a vital role in transporting the public, often in conjunction with airlines, public transit operators and Amtrak. We move our military between bases, and to and from deployments; provide critical connections for rural and underserved communities to reach necessary services, including medical services; connect travelers between cities; serve workers whether they are commuters coming into urban centers, miners going to work in the mines, or agricultural workers headed to jobs. We also serve as a key player in national emergency planning, for both weather-related events, e.g. hurricanes, and security related events, such as protecting the U.S. Capitol.

Founded in 1923, our association is 300 members strong. We have never experienced the decimating effects of a crisis like this. We are a mix of motorcoach and tour operators, service providers to the motorcoach industry and destination travel suppliers.

We are asking you to consider the following:

1. Deem the industry a national “essential service.”

2. Provide $12 billion in immediate cash grants to fleet operators to provide industry relief.

3. Ensure guaranteed vehicle loan deferment/forbearance for at least 120 days.

4. Declare the industry is eligible for zero-interest SBA loans and ensure such loans are made available within two weeks of application, with no payments due for six months.

5. Mandate that all government accounts with transportation companies be paid within five days of billing.

6. Require insurance companies to suspend auto liability premiums on passenger transportation vehicles pulled out of service, without requiring transportation companies to turn in their license plates.

7. Allow operators to postpone real estate tax payments as well as vehicle fuel and utilities payments such as phone, electricity and internet services, without penalty or disconnection.

8. Open a pipeline to cleaning products to ensure vehicles are regularly sanitized, and to help our industry promote the safety of our services.

As Congress aggressively seeks measures to combat the economic downturn resulting from the spread of COVID-19, we implore you to keep in mind the myriad of small, family owned businesses engaged in motorcoach, tour and travel operations. There will be a need for transportation services, and they need a bridge to get there — not a long-term financing commitment, but simply a bridge to weather this crisis. Our members provide the vital links for rural communities, commuting employees, school children, and poor people, those on fixed incomes and travelers without cars. We play a key role in our national transportation network — which will be seriously degraded, if we do not receive financial assistance. The collection of recently passed “relief packages” were well intentioned and provided funding through the Small Business Administration, but this will not address their needs. They need your help now.

With discussion of a fourth relief package, please include my business and our industry, and support us at this critical time — fight for grants-in-aid and loans for our industry, or they will not survive.

Patricia Cowley is executive director of the Pennsylvania Bus Association.

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