WPRI 12 News Washington DC Bureau

Bus drivers urge Congress to include them in next COVID-19 relief package

Washington DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) ─ Any other year, buses across the country would be full of springtime school groups and tourists visiting the nation’s capital.

But this year, those buses are empty thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving hundreds of bus drivers nationwide without work.

Linda Barnhill, who’s been a bus driver in West Virginia for 30 years, said Congress is ignoring her industry, and Americans like her also need financial relief.

“We’re left out,” Barnhill said. “The planes and trains, they get money, and we don’t. So we’re on our own.”

“We’re not moving any buses,” Ralph Trevino, president of Aires Charter Transportation in Chicago, added.

On Wednesday, nearly 400 buses filled the streets of Washington D.C. to raise awareness of the lack of support for bus drivers. Those drivers are calling on lawmakers to set aside $15 billion for them in the next coronavirus relief package.

Industry leaders say nearly all of the nation’s 3,000 motorcoach companies have laid off employees or face permanent closure due to the pandemic.

“I would say we have probably lost over $550,000 in income,” Tammy Mengee, co-owner of Benedict’s Bus Service in Pennsylvania, said.

Claudine Halabi, president of Baron Tours Transportation, and Charlie Neal, general manager of Haymarket Transportation, both operate out of Maryland and are concerned some transportation companies won’t survive.

“We’re all in this together, we understand the plight of each other,” Neal said.

“We want to make sure that not only is our industry safe but we want to make sure our employees know that we care for them and we want them to have jobs when this is all said and done,” Halabi added.

Despite their fears, many drivers say they’re optimistic that Congress will pick them up.

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