The National School Transportation Association (NSTA) asked U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to expedite implementing the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services Act (CERTS) Act to provide financial relief to school bus contractors hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Private school bus operators provide nearly 40% of the nation’s school bus service in 200,000 yellow school buses with close to 380,000 employees, according to a news release from the NSTA. Each day, almost 26 million children rely on the school bus as their primary way to get to school in the safest way possible.
The industry, however, also suffered severe economic losses and furloughed thousands of employees over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. NSTA estimates that private school bus operators have lost nearly $8 billion in revenue since March 2020, mostly due to state-mandated school closures.
In December, Congress authorized a direct relief program — the CERTS Act — for private transportation service contractors that was contained in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), 2021. The $908 billion overall package, as School Bus Fleet previously reported, includes $2 billion for transportation and $54 billion for K-12 education.
The industry vigorously advocated for this aid since the measure was introduced in May 2020, NSTA noted in the news release.
The CAA, which contains the CERTS Act, was enacted on Dec. 27, 2020.
“NSTA has been encouraged in our meetings with the [U.S.] Department of Treasury and Transportation, and we stand ready to provide continuing assistance during this implementation stage,” Curt Macysyn, NSTA’s executive director wrote in a letter to Yellen. “In closing, we emphasize that as CERTS continues to be developed, it is imperative that the pillars of the program be the efficient and equitable distribution of relief funds. COVID-19 affected all aspects of our industry similarly, and we look forward to the release of these funds as authorized by Congress as soon as possible.”
“As more schools reopen their doors to in-class learning, it’s important to recognize the important role that student transportation maintains in providing equity and access in education,” said NSTA President John Benish Jr. of Cook-Illinois Corp. “Additionally, providing access to funds authorized by Congress gives school bus operators the needed bridge to transition from the disruptions of 2020 to a complete return to the classroom for students.”