While the rest of the world has stopped because of COVID-19, spring still came. And the coming of spring means we are heading into stormy weather. The spring, summer and fall seasons bring tornados, hurricanes, floods and other disasters. At any given time of year, and especially during hurricane season, there could be more than 600 motorcoaches deployed a number of times throughout the season to evacuate American citizens from flood waters, hurricanes and other natural disasters. We never know when these events might take place but historically FEMA and state emergency management agencies have had motorcoaches at the ready. In 2019 there were four deployments of buses, ranging from 200 to 650 buses, to help move Americans to safety. When the 2020 storms come, there may be no one around to help. Not because they don’t want to be but because they are out of business.
As of today, nearly every one of the 3,000 private bus companies has shut their doors and most have laid off a majority of their employees. The vast majority of these companies are small family-owned businesses. Fifty percent of their annual business takes place from March through May and that business has all been cancelled. They provide nearly 600 million passenger trips annually. Almost as many as the airlines and 20 times more than Amtrak, but the receive no federal assistance for the work they do and no government subsidies like Amtrak.
While Congress is considering a $50 Billion bailout for the airlines, they have completely overlooked the motorcoach industry, which provides the same services to the same Americans, serving rural communities, providing schedule services from city to city, taking people to work, taking students to schools and learning destinations, connecting them with friends and loved ones and most importantly helping to get them out of harm’s way. In many instances motorcoach travel is the only way to connect to other modes of transportation like trains and planes and they serve those who can least afford other modes of transportation.
We are not asking for a $50 billion bailout. We are asking for grants and loans that will save this industry from collapse. As an essential portion of the nation’s transportation network, if the motorcoach companies do not have a dedicated line of funding in the stimulus package, and are forced to apply for Small Business Administration grants with the tens of millions of other businesses across the country, many will close their doors permanently and will not hear the call when natural disasters strike.
We need help desperately and we need it now.