Senate and House Leadership have reached an agreement with a focus on a comprehensive $900 billion relief bill that will send $600 stimulus checks to many individuals and renew a weekly unemployment supplemental of $300 for 10 weeks. CERTS Act funding for the motorcoach industry survived at a level of $2 billion, less than the previously hoped for amount of $8 billion.
Congressional leaders have signaled this bill is a down payment on what will be a bigger funding measure down the road this spring, once a new Administration and Congress are in place.
A first for motorcoach industry
While the final amount is far less than hoped for, this marks the first time the motorcoach industry was named specifically in a relief bill alongside airlines, public transit and Amtrak. For example, the industry was not named in either the 9/11 or 2008 recession relief legislation. In fact, aside from a few operators receiving accessibility and/or security grants, the motorcoach industry is generally a stranger in the federal subsidies arena.
“We are disappointed, but pleased CERTS survived,” said United Motorcoach Association (UMA) President & CEO Larry Killingsworth. “Internal discussions reveal that at one point the provisions were completely zeroed out until our legislative champions prevailed.”
When the $2 billion the motorcoach, private school bus and passenger industries are awarded through CERTS is exhausted quickly, leaving large unfilled needs, it establishes the basis to be included in the next round of relief.
What happened with CERTS Act funding?
Funding for state departments of transportation, not previously included in the relief measure, was provided by chipping away at other industries’ allocations.
Transportation relief survived the proposed $45 billion; however, state departments of transportation weighed in at the last minute and captured $12 billion.
That created some unfortunate reductions in other areas:
- CERTS Act (motorcoach, passenger vessel, private school bus) – $2 billion
(proposed $8 billion)
- Airports – $-0- (proposed $4 billion)
- Transit – $14 billion (proposed $15 billion)
- Amtrak – $1 billion
- Airlines – $15 billion (proposed $17 billion)
- Airline contractors – $1 billion (not originally proposed.)
Next steps plus helpful additions
Once the President signs the bill, the Treasury Department is charged with launching the new program with terms, conditions and processes.
With some similarities to CERTS, the bill gives new life to the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program with $284 billion for first and second forgivable loans.
Twenty billion dollars for the SBA’s popular Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) is a welcome addition with a reported additional round of grants.
The bill extends the Employee Retention Tax Credit to help keep workers in the jobs during coronavirus closures or reduced revenue. The Internal Revenue Service determined earlier this year that business expenses paid with PPP funds would not be tax-deductible.
The current relief bill is a fraction of what many legislators want to spend. Capped at $900 billion, many view the bill as a “down payment” or first step until the new Congress and the Administration can pass a “significantly larger” bill.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said: “Make no mistake about it: This agreement is far from perfect. But it will deliver emergency relief to a nation in the throes of a genuine emergency.”