Private school bus, motorcoach, and domestic passenger vessel industries are calling for the inclusion of the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act into the next economic relief package under discussion between the Administration and Congress.
The National School Transportation Association joined the American Bus Association, United Motorcoach Association and Passenger Vessel Association in urging the Trump administration’s support of the CERTS Act, in a letter addressed to the White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Wednesday.
The bi-partisan CERTS Act would provide $10 billion in emergency economic relief funding to school bus companies, motorcoach operators, U.S. flag passenger vessel operators and other domestic transportation service providers, as designated by the secretaries of the U.S. departments of the treasury and transportation.
“Both bills provide much-needed grant and economic assistance to private transportation industries overlooked in previously enacted coronavirus economic relief packages. With Congress and the Administration focused on those sectors of the economy that continue to struggle from the pandemic, this legislation explicitly meets this goal and we seek your support,” the letter states.
It explains that the school bus, motorcoach and domestic passenger vessel industries “have suffered unprecedented economic losses and furloughed hundreds of thousands of employees over the past six months due to the coronavirus pandemic.”
The industries forecast that many of its companies will not see normal operations until at least 2021, and their employees will remain out of work as a result. The letter states that their industries have not received specific federal economic relief that the airlines, rail and public transit have.
While the associations shared that their members have reaped some benefits from the Paycheck Protection Program, “these programs have proved inadequate to address the long-term capital investment burdens and costly regulatory burdens associated with the passenger transportation industry, particularly at a time when there is no sign of recovery for passenger travel.”
It continues, “If this trend continues and these businesses do not receive a lifeline to bridge this crisis, the capacity of the national transportation network will not only contract but there will also be an increased demand for less cost-efficient publicly subsidized transportation to address the loss. Right now, the private sector plays a critical role in meeting public transportation needs, without the burden of requiring federal, state or local government subsidies.”
The letter states the transportation industries all provide vital transportation services and play an essential role in the national transportation network. It said if the industries fail, it will be devasting throughout the entire economy. The impact will not only be felt in transportation but across schools, national emergency response capabilities, the manufacturing sector, the financial sector, the tourism sector, and more.
Private school bus contractors reportedly make up 40 percent of the nation’s student transportation service, employing over 250,000 employees in the process. Many of these companies have reportedly been severely impacted by the pandemic as they have received reduced or no payments whatsoever due to school closures during the spring semester and the cancellation of summer camps and activities nationwide. This halt of payments could worsen as schools continue to opt for online learning this fall.
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“Many districts that are not reopening schools for classroom learning on a full-time basis are refusing to pay contractors, yet expecting them to be ready to resume full operations with licensed and eligible drivers with less than a week’s notice,” the letter states. “In other cases, districts still owe contractors money for operations dating back to the spring, also expecting contractors to maintain staffing levels and vehicles. School bus transportation is an extension of the education system and for many, the only way to get to and from school.”
The letter continues that for 26 million children, the school bus driver could be the first and last person they see during their school day. Noting that it is critical to ensure the continued viability of school bus transportation for these children, as they rely on the yellow school bus.