The Women in Buses Council of the American Bus Association recently teamed up with BUSRide magazine to create an eBook of stories from women in the motorcoach industry and the effect COVID-19 has had on them and their jobs. More than 40 women from around the country contributed their stories in letters to their Congressional delegation.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the industry comprised successful, primarily small, family-owned businesses providing public transportation services. Now, in the wake of COVID-19 and government directives for travel restrictions, the industry remains at a standstill.
The letters offer a glimpse into the stories of women working to feed families, raise children, home school, and maintain home environments because of closures, all while maintaining a professional career in the tour, travel, and motorcoach industry. The letter also informs lawmakers that the United States motorcoach industry needs specific and direct economic relief in the form of grants and low-interest, long-term loans, in addition to liability protection.
Within these letters are powerful words, sharing firsthand experiences, fears and frustrations.
"I think the biggest reason I cry myself to sleep at night is because we have all worked so long and so hard and just don't want to see it end this way, either to our business or any of the other small family-operated motorcoach companies." —Julie Reisig, President, Great Lakes Motorcoach, Inc., Grand Rapids, Michigan
"In January 2020, I was honored to be the Women in Buses award recipient at ABA's marketplace in Omaha. To be recognized among my peers, many that were mentors for me as I got my feet wet, was humbling. Since then, it has been a whirlwind of unimaginable proportions. It has been surreal. I was to be riding a high and enjoying record-breaking successes in revenue. Since I took over the direction of our sales department, we had seen a 40% growth. All of that has come to a crashing halt. Actually, it has reversed at speeds unknown. Typically we have a handful of cancelations a year. As of now, our cancelations total $1.5 million. Our few bookings are for the military and their schedule keeps changing, so that isn't even the guarantee we could once count as solid. Our payroll is now almost non-existent." —Kim Grzywacz, CTIS, Sales Director, CIT Signature Transportation, Ames, Iowa
"As a professional woman who loves our visitor industry and a citizen, I would like to see Government assist with relief to Motor Coach companies just like they have with other entities. My employees, my family members and friends have all had to stand in food bank lines, wait months for unemployment checks, not to mention be denied then appeal only to receive it, which should have happened early on, defer loans, defer rent, all of which will catch up to them. Our team is now without jobs and honestly due to COVID-19, tourism will not be the same for years so some of the employees will not be coming back to work for us." —Jamie Barut, Vice President Operations, Polynesian Adventure, Honolulu, Hawaii
Peter Pantuso, ABA President & CEO, stresses the need for governmental assistance.
"As Congress prepares to enact another economic recovery plan for the country, the motorcoach industry hopes that they will correct the error made during the CARES Act when Congress omitted the industry from the $86 billion it designated for other transportation sectors, such as airlines, airports, Amtrak and public transit," said Pantuso. "The motorcoach industry moves nearly 600 million passengers a year whether it is evacuating citizens out of harm's way during natural disasters, students on field trips, transporting the military, connecting rural American to city centers, assisting commuters with intercity transportation to get to work or enabling families to take vacations in an economical and safe manner when other means of transportation remain costly prohibitive, buses move America.
"However, should the industry not receive federal funding to help it bridge these economic hardships, we will not be around when Americans are ready to travel again."
Currently there are two bills in Congress, Senate Bill 4150 and House Bill 7642—both named the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act—that will provide essential economic assistance to the industry.
"The Women in Buses Council gives special thanks to BUSRide magazine for helping these women make their voices heard," said Elizabeth Hall, Women in Buses Chair and Chief Operating Officer of John Hall's Alaska in Anchorage.
"The purpose of this collaboration was to not only showcase women in the industry but to give real-life examples of how COVID-19 has destroyed our industry. We hope that by reading these letters and seeing the faces of real people they represent that Congress will help our industry survive this pandemic."
Click the image below to view the entire eBook of letters.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for Groups Today.