Almost four months after the passage of the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act, school bus contractors and motorcoach operators are still awaiting their funds. They sent the latest request for relief last week.
The original CERTS ACT request last year was $10 billion in funding, but the final Consolidated Appropriations of Act included only $2 billion. On April 21, the National School Transportation Association (NSTA) in conjunction with the American Bus Association, the United Motorcoach Association (UMA), Passenger Vessel Association, as well as the Amalgamated Transit Union, Transportation Division and Eastern States Joint Board, sent another letter to congressional members seeking the funds.
“The fiscal year 2021 Omnibus and COVID-19 Relief and Response Act funded the program at $2 billion,” the letter addressed to Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Kay Granger, Mike Quigley and Steve Womack, states. “This vital funding was provided by Congress to assist the motorcoach industry, school bus contractors and U.S. flagged passenger vessel industries hard hit by the effects of the ongoing pandemic. Unfortunately, the $2 billion that was approved by Congress in December 2020 has still not been distributed by the Treasury Department.”
It adds that while the Treasury Department expects to introduce guidance for an application process shortly, the process is projected to be over-subscribed, as more than 5,000 companies are eligible for the $2 billion in funding. Treasury originally was supposed to release guidance in early March.
Curt Macysyn, executive director of the NSTA, said the school bus side alone lost nearly $8 billion in revenue during the pandemic.
“It is critical that Congress approves additional robust funding for the CERTS Act program to help motorcoach, school bus and domestic passenger vessel industries recover and return to full health,” the letter states, though no dollar amount was tied to the request.
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In addition, The UMA sent an email on April 23 urging individuals to solicit support from congressional representatives for more CERTS Act funding.
“We need Congress to support additional funding for the CERTS grant program in the next Financial Services Appropriations Bill. While we anxiously await Treasury’s implementation of the $2 billion, we anticipate that there may not be enough funding to meet the overwhelming needs of our industry and others,” the email states.
In addition to seeking additional funding for CERTS, the coalition wants Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to approve the transfer of money from other appropriations or funds available to the agencies or corporations as deemed necessary for grants and contracts for providers of passenger transportation services.