Many family-owned and operated bus businesses that came to Texas to help in recent hurricane evacuations now face financial instability due to a delay in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds disbursement, according to the American Bus Association (ABA).
“The American Bus Association has officially written to Gov. Perry to urge him to move more quickly for those small businesses that helped save tens of thousands of Texans by transporting them on buses to get them to safety as hurricanes Gustav and Ike pelted the Gulf Coast,” said ABA President and CEO Peter J. Pantuso. “FEMA has even sent funds to cover the costs of reimbursing bus operators for their work, so we urge the governor and legislature to realize that time is critical, and that this too is a crisis, albeit a different one than looming hurricanes, but a crisis situation nonetheless. Some operators face the loss of their businesses and their livelihoods.”
With a sour economy, independent bus operators have been in constant communication with Pantuso as the ABA and other members individually continue to pursue FEMA funds budgeted to repay the bus operators. For those long-time family-run bus companies, many of which own as few as two to five motorcoaches, the delayed payments may cause long-term damage to their vitality.
“More than 80 percent of ABA bus operator members have fewer than 10 coaches in their fleets,” Pantuso added. “Gov. Perry and the Texas legislature have the power to do the right thing right now to repay those who came to the Lone Star State’s rescue during hurricanes.”
Steve McGraw, Perry’s state Department of Homeland Security director, has said that $7 million has been dispersed already and the state is following up with an additional $25 million from FEMA. Perry and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst have been asked to allocate additional funds to pay motorcoach companies, after which Texas can be reimbursed for these funds from FEMA.
“ABA applauds the Texas Travel Industry Association’s efforts to ensure that Texas leaders are aware of the motorcoach, travel and tourism industry dollars that infuse the Texas economy, and for its tenacity to get operators reimbursed,” Pantuso said.