Last week, Gary Shimshock was surprised to learn that his story of how his company is struggling under the weight of inflation and a labor shortage was shared on the U.S. Senate Floor by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).
“She was listening. Put it that way,” said Shimshock, who along with his wife Natalie, owns Budget Charter in Adah, Pennsylvania. But he was surprised that his frustrations were taken directly to the elected leaders who may be able to do something about it.
“I was shocked,” he said of learning that he was part of Capito’s speech. The United Motorcoach Association member learned of the speech after he was sent a video from a member of Sen. Capito’s staff.
Capito, vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, weaves Shimshock’s story among others to lay the case for why President Biden’s pursuit of “Bidenomics” are exerting ever-increasing financial pressure on American families.
In her remarks, Senator Capito highlighted stories that she has heard from West Virginians on how the Biden administration’s economic policies have held them back from success and outlined Republican solutions to get the nation’s economy on track.
Challenges ‘at all levels’
Capito shared a story of an unnamed motorcoach operator and the challenges his business is facing come from all levels.
“The challenges his business is facing come from all levels. They own 38 buses but not all are operational. Why is that?
“In addition to elevated fuel costs, he cannot find enough drivers, and lingering supply chain issues have hampered their ability to conduct needed maintenance.
“He said that even when he gets a bus rolling and the group asks to stop for food, he is often met by restaurant owners in the parking lot, who say that their own staffing shortages are preventing them from providing service to the passengers.
“This is just one interaction, but it proves the multifaceted challenges created by ‘Bidenomics,’ the growing negative impact that these policies have made, and the handcuffs placed on our business owners that prevent them from doing their jobs.
“Sustained high inflation and interest rates means that operating costs are at levels where, even if prices are raised, business owners cannot reinvest into their businesses or hire to maintain a workforce.
“And because they’re forced to raise prices, those costs are passed onto the consumer who continues to make difficult choices about how they spend their money.
While Budget Charter sits less than 10 miles outside of the West Virginia border, many of its clients are in the Mountain State.
Capito gathered Shimshock’s story by happenstance. He was her driver a few weeks ago when her team needed a ride to and from a West Virginia University football game.
“They called for a bus to go to the main campus and we picked them up when another company couldn’t. I decided well, I’ll drive, since it was a U.S. Senator,” said Shimshock.
The conversation began with a formal introduction when the bus arrived, and the senator asked how long Shimshock had driven for the company. He explained that he owned the company, and their conversation progressed from there.
When she asked how his business was going, he was honest.
“It’s horrible,” he told her.
He shared how he’ll bring a bus to McDonalds, only to have the manager tell them he doesn’t have enough staff to fill the orders of the passengers.
He’s owned the company since 2005. Previously, he worked for his cousins’ company for about 25 years until he quit, and later decided to buy a bus and start his own business. His business was growing, until everything turned upside down in early 2020.
“We bought six buses and took delivery on the last one just before the lockdown,” said Shimshock, adding that his fleet was grounded for two years.
In need of help
Now, he’s struggling with inflation and a labor shortage that not only affects his business but other industries as well, from manufacturers who can’t supply parts on time to restaurants that don’t have enough staff to serve his 50 passengers when his coach pulls up.
“You can’t get employees. You can’t get parts. It’s just sad,” said Shimshock, noting the latest challenge is federal regulations for coaches that will make older motorcoaches non-compliant in some states. “Then you got this new EPA law that’s coming into effect and nobody can meet the EPA standards. It’s a mess out here.”
He’s glad that someone is listening, and hopes having a senator tell his story will motivate other elected officials to pay attention to not only his plight but that of the entire motorcoach industry. Still recovering from the pandemic, operators now are facing paying back loans that kept their companies afloat during the shutdown.
“It would be nice if the government could help us out – even though they didn’t before,” said Shimshock. “Some companies got some money (from the $2 billion CERTS Act) but I didn’t. Most of us got very little.”