The Greater New Jersey Motorcoach Association (GNJMA) is asking the federal government to provide the motorcoach, tour and travel industry with COVID-19 stimulus funding, including $10 billion in grants-in-aid, $5 billion in loans and an extension of the terms in the Paycheck Protection Program.
Tim Stout, president of GNJMA and Stout’s Transportation in Trenton, N.J., said the 125 state association members, most of whom are small-business owners, can’t spend the PPP money in the required eight weeks because they are prohibited from operating.
“I can’t bring drivers back to sit around,” he said, adding, “If I don’t cover 75% of payroll, then it just becomes a loan. The last thing my company needs right now is more debt.”
Stout said an extension, allowing operators to utilize the funds through the end of the year without them turning into a loan, would help a lot of small businesses in the industry.
The state association is comprised mostly of members from New Jersey, but includes some from Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland, Stout said.
Nationwide, the motorcoach, tour and travel industry transports nearly 600 million passengers each year and contributes nearly $101 billion in direct economic impact to the country.
In the wake of COVID-19, nearly all of the industry’s 3,000 businesses have shut down, laying off almost 88,000 employees. They are expected to lose $8 billion through August and experience many permanent closures unless the federal government intervenes.
Stout said an impact survey of the GNJMA members revealed they have experienced more than $130 million in revenue losses thus far and operators have been forced to lay off or furlough more than 5,500 employees.
“It’s pretty substantial,” he said.
Meanwhile airlines, airports, public transit and rail industries have received COVID-19 relief funds. “We transport just as many people as the airline industry, and the airlines got a bailout. So did Amtrak,” Stout said.
According to the association, the motorcoach, tour and travel industry transports nearly 600 million passengers annually – more than Amtrak at 568 million.
“Our industry is going to be among the last to recover because we’re in the business of moving groups of people,” Stout said.
Association members, many of them running family businesses, provide commuter services, as well as bus transportation for colleges and universities, churches, school trips and tour groups. “All that is shut down. We don’t really see a full recovery for 12 months.”
The operators also provide transportation for the Republican and Democratic conventions, and are a critical part of FEMA and state emergency response efforts to provide support and supplies, and they transport U.S. troops and their equipment for deployments and training around the country.
Stout said the state association put out a call to action to New Jersey legislators and hopes to schedule a virtual meeting with them, in place of the meeting it usually has in person with legislators in Washington each spring.
In addition, he said, private motorcoach operators from across the country, frustrated in their efforts to obtain relief, held a “rally” yesterday in Washington, with hundreds of motorcoaches driving around with slogans on the vehicles, to demonstrate operators’ need for financial assistance.
“As they get ready to develop the next Cares Act,” Stout said, “our concern is really to be a part of it.”