Bus Pandemic Relief Fund Access to Open After Monthslong Delay

  • Treasury says applications will open within a week
  • Companies going bankrupt, asking for additional aid

The Treasury Department will soon allow bus and motorcoach companies to apply for funding provided by Congress last year, offering long-awaited support for businesses that struggled through the pandemic.

None of the $2 billion provided by the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act, enacted as part of a fiscal 2021 funding law (Public Law 116-260) in December, has been distributed. A Treasury Department spokesperson said Tuesday the funding application portal will go live within the next week.

The funds are intended for motorcoach, school bus, pilotage and passenger vessel companies.

The Treasury Department move follows months of calls from bipartisan lawmakers and industry groups to allow operators facing closure to apply for and receive the relief funds. The delays have also hindered the industries’ ability to lobby for additional aid in Congress.

“We’ve done everything to try to get them to move quicker,” Peter Pantuso, president and CEO of American Bus Association, said. “This was an emergency funding program and I’m losing companies in the industry, multiple companies, every single day.”

The Treasury Department spokesperson said that because the grant funding was made available for several industries, it required extensive research and analysis to design the program and build an application portal.

Photographer: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images
The Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act gave $2 billion to motorcoach, school bus, pilotage and passenger vessel companies, but no funds have been distributed.

‘Over-Subscribed’

Industry groups say the $2 billion won’t be enough, and that not having that funding is causing issues for their advocacy.

“When we’re going to the Hill asking for additional help, part of the answer we get is, ‘well we’d like to help you but you haven’t spent the money that we gave you’,” Pantusso said. “We haven’t spent the money because we can’t get it out of Treasury and Treasury’s already said it’s going to be well over-subscribed.”

Companies are filing for bankruptcy as they await relief funds, industry groups say. They include a Tennessee-based company that supplied President Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign bus, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday.

Ken Presley, vice president of legislative, regulatory and industry affairs and chief operating officer at United Motorcoach Association, said many operators haven’t moved a bus since March 2020, and that charter services aren’t bouncing back quickly since much of their business goes to large group trips that aren’t expected to pick up until the fall.

“We are looking for additional help,” in upcoming legislation, Presley said. “Any little bit will help.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at lbyington@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com

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