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AMES, Iowa — The pandemic has taken a toll on the bus industry. Since the start of the pandemic, many companies have laid-off workers or shut down, and now industry leaders are calling on Congress for help.

“We’re still devastated. We’re still trying to climb out of this, and we need some help from Congress,” said CIT Signature Transportation Sales Director Kim Grzywacz.

CIT Signature Transportation has been in business for more than 30 years. It has provided charters for schools, tourism, the military, and more, but Grzywacz says business trends have changed.

“You just cut everything you could,” said Grzywacz. “We had our designated survivor employees that we kept on, and we wanted to keep. We’re at about a third that we were and just keep rolling. Just bring it back one step at a time.”

Before the pandemic, the company employed 60 people. Today 20 people work for the company. Bus companies across the country are feeling the same pressure from the pandemic. Congress is currently discussing ways to offer COVID-19 relief funds to industries in need, and leaders in the bus industry want to be included in the conversation.

“These are companies that have always been very independent, privately owned. They’re small businesses. They don’t want government in their business, but they need a bridge to get them through,” said American Bus Association President and CEO Peter Pantuso.

Initially, Congress gave $2 billion in grants through the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation program, but that was not enough. Pantuso says the industry wants Congress to provide $6 billion to help companies get out of the wrong place.

“A lot of it (money) goes for workers to get people back to work and get the drivers back in the seat so that these buses can roll again and get back to business,” said Pantuso.