The decision by chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, to co-sponsor Senate Bill 4150, marked a major step forward for the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services Act.
United Motorcoach Association members in Iowa were instrumental to this development. Leading this effort were Windstar‘s Jeff Greteman and CIT Signature Transportation‘s Kim and John Grzywacz. All three have been working tirelessly to expand support for both the Senate and House versions of the CERTS Act. Iowa’s senators and four U.S. Reps have all signed on as co-sponsors.
During the Aug. 20 UMA Town Hall session, they shared the behind-the-scenes story of how everything came together.
“It was a lot easier than I thought,” Gretemen said.
Asking about the industry
When Greteman heard Grassley was going to be at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Carroll, Iowa, where he lives, he made a point to be there. The senator planned to visit with chamber members informally for about 45 minutes. There were about 25 people in attendance.
Gretemen knew Grassley and had pretty frequent contact with his office.
He shared his interaction with the senator. “I’m asking about our industry,” he said. “I said, ‘We’ve got about 30 senators that are co-sponsoring our bill, the CERTS Act, and at what point do you feel like the bill is gonna pass? Do we need 51 senators? Do we need 100? The second part of my question is, I’ve asked your office to co-sponsor and I haven’t got a positive response, and I’m going to ask you again, would you be willing to co-sponsor it?’ He said, ‘Yes, absolutely, I will co-sponsor the bill.’”
Grassley then offered some advice. He told Gretemen that he and his other bus operator friends from every state should ask their senators and House members to support this bill, and get them to connect with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to let them know that they’re supporting the bill.
The success of the UMA members with Grassley was the result of a cumulative amount of work to create awareness. Grassley later spoke on the Senate floor about the CERTS Act and the need to support the industry.
Gretemen praised the work of the Grzywaczs and Mike Canine from Lorenz Bus Service in Minneapolis.
“(Canine has) been on most if not all of these calls, and we have been pretty active as far as contacting all the senators, all the representatives in the states that we have operations,” Gretemen said. “(Windstar has) operations in seven states, and we have talked to or written personal emails to every senator, almost every representative in every state.”
Windstar Lines has operations in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada and Florida.
Keep up the contact
Kim Grzywacz encourages other UMA members to keep contacting senators and House members, and to work together.
After Grassley agreed to co-sponsor, she received an email from U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa), who agreed to sign on, so now all four U.S. representatives from the state are co-sponsoring the CERTS Act. After that, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) came on as co-sponsor.
“I keep saying that this is a sale, and we have closed the sale on 100% of the House representatives from Iowa,” Kim Grzywacz said. “Get together with your neighbors, and have those calls. We just have to keep beating the drum.”
John Grzywacz added that persistence along with tag-teaming were key to the couple’s success.
“She sends an email one day. I send an email the next day, so they’re getting five emails a week from CIT,” he said. “When we got on the call with Finkenauer’s office, I asked, ‘Are you sick of seeing emails from us?’ (The staffer) said no. He said, ‘These are the things that show passion about what we need to address.’”
John Grzywacz added, “If you sent an email a month ago, it ain’t enough. You need to do more. You can just keep reaching out. Obviously, we didn’t send the same email. We tailored it to the news. If someone closed down, we made that part of the headline. If we had a conversation with our bank, we made that part of our subject material. We tailored it to what was happening with us. We told our story. Don’t be afraid to reach out and tell the story, tell the story, tell the story.”