Local coach bus company receives new lease on life thanks to federal grant

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A local coach bus company is receiving a new lease on life thanks to a federal grant.

When the State of Illinois shut down because of COVID in March 2020, everything changed for Peoria Charter Coach President Bill Winkler.

“Everything went downhill. I lost 93% of sales and had to lay off 90% of my employees,” he said.

Now, thanks to a COVID-19 grant specifically designed for transportation service companies, Peoria Charter Coach will survive. The Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Program provides critical grant funding to transportation service providers that faced significant loss of business and increased operating costs due to the pandemic.

Winkler said the grant, an undisclosed “substantial” amount, reimbursed 50% of his losses from the past two years.

“This means that my company, I can safely say, is 80 years old as of this year. I didn’t know if I was going to make it after March 20,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL) introduced the CERTS Act of 2020 to the House floor on July 16, 2020. Winkler said he got a chance to make his case to LaHood and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), and is forever grateful.

“So thankful, proud to be an American company. This is the way our government should work. Republicans, Democrats, Senators, and Congresspeople getting together and helping out small business,” he said.

In a statement, LaHood wrote he was glad to see the CERTS Program put to good use.

“Illinois’ motorcoach and bus companies, such as Peoria Charter, provide vital transportation services to communities across our region while offering good-paying jobs… I am proud to see federal funding finally getting to the businesses in central Illinois like Peoria Charter that desperately need it,” he said.

Winkler said the money will be used for wages, health insurance, and investments.

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