Charter, coach buses rally at capitol

Coronavirus

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA)– Employees and owners in the charter bus industry rallied at the capitol Wednesday to raise awareness about the threat COVID-19 is posing to their businesses.

Dozens of those buses took to the streets of Springfield to let people know if they don’t get assistance soon, they may not be around by the end of this year.

For charter bus drivers like Allan Silzer of Peoria Charter, work has been scarce over the last few months. “We’re getting hit pretty hard with this coronavirus stuff because people are a little concerned about traveling right now and we’re concerned about the welfare of our company, you know? We’re trying to keep it alive,” Silzer said.

As things stand right now, charter companies will not be able to regain some sense of normalcy until phase four of the governor’s reopening plan begins. Owners say even then, they will still face an uphill battle getting back on track.

“Even when phase four comes back, it’s going to take us a while before customers feel comfortable with us,” said Bill Winkler, Peoria Charter Coach Company President. “We have been cleaning our coaches up to CDC requirements but until the public feels safe enough to be in one of our coaches, which are cleaner than ever, we are out of luck.”

Last month, buses drove to the nation’s capitol to call for change. They wanted to continue their fight locally. Buses from around the state drove to Springfield to circle around the state capitol, making sure that the governor and lawmakers know their businesses are hurting.

“We work on our businesses, we don’t have an advocacy group out there to get these billions of dollars,” Winkler said. “We need help from the legislators right now. The State of Illinois has closed me down. My business has been closed down since March 31st and unless the federal government steps up, really I can’t open up.”

Charter company owners said they are grateful for federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans but they said that money will run out soon. On top of people not wanting to travel, the lack of trips from schools and sports teams have dealt another blow to their industry. Owners are hoping people have an itch to travel once the threat of illness subsides.

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