Peoria Charter Coach joining rally in Washington D.C. to look for more funding

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — An 80-year-old Peoria business is crying out to the federal government for more funding.

Peoria Charter Coach employs 140 people. President Bill Winkler says COVID-19 is the worst thing that has ever happened to his business.

Since the Governor enacted his first ‘Stay-At-Home’ Executive Order, Peoria Charter has received no revenue.

Winkler says on Monday, his company will join other motorcoaches around the country at the nation’s capital, asking the federal government for additional funding.

“This is what the federal government has directly given to publicly-owned airlines, amtrak, and transits. Publicly-owned, they’ve given them more than 75-billion dollars. Our industry? Nothing. Nothing directly, I have to get my money from the PPP,” Winkler said.

The two coaches will be leaving Peoria Charter Coaches’ Urbana location Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. and will join a rally called ‘Motor Coaches Rolling for Awareness.’

There will be 1,000 coaches at the rally on Wednesday in Washington D.C.

Winkler says the motorcoach industry is asking for $10 billion in grants and $5 billion in long-term zero percent interest rate loans.

“This is the only business I can do right now is if an essential business will give me a call. That would be a hospital, if the military would give me a call, the airlines would give me a call, or public transit. Those businesses would call and need my service, and I’m not getting that phone call,” Winkler said.

Winkler says the Urbana location has 10 charter coaches, but due to COVID-19 only one is currently being used. Each bus seats 56 people, but the one bus in use only averages 10 passengers per ride. The rides go from Urbana to Chicago to get people to and from Chicago O’Hare airport.

One bus has ‘Illinois says we are non-essential,’ the other reads ‘America says we are ESSENTIAL!!!’

Winkler says all passengers and bus drivers have to wear face coverings on the charter buses.

Winkler wanted to make sure he was very supportive of how Governor J.B. Pritzker has handled the COVID-19 pandemic in Illinois, but he did want to give a direct message to Gov. Pritzker.

“What has to happen is phase four. I’m told you’ve said that phase three probably will be around May 29, phase four will be around June 24. The way it’s set now, June 24, I can’t even hope for any business at all. I’m out of business,” Winkler said.

“My hope is for the Governor to look at the 12 counties that surround Peoria. The two large hospitals we have, the three testing stations we have in Peoria, the decrease in the number of cases of COVID-19 in Peoria, and the five deaths in Peoria. Here’s my hope, that you deem Peoria, you start deeming cities. Don’t start with regions, start with the cities, open up the cities, open me up for business. Open up Peoria for phase four,” Winkler said.

Winkler says most of his business comes from school group trips.

“Grade schools through colleges, that’s our biggest market, as well as the sports teams,” Winkler said.

Winkler said he spoke to Congressman Darin LaHood (R-Illinois) about getting money from the paycheck protection program, but no local lawmakers showed up to his Friday press conference.

“They were invited to be here with me. I’m on this on my own. Every state legislator was invited and federal as well,” Winkler said.

Winkler says when the coaches completely open back up, people should not be worried about them being a health concern.

“My coaches are cleaner than they’ve ever been,” Winkler said.

With no income coming in, Winkler says his operating expenses are around $300,000 a month.

If he gets the money he’s requesting from the federal government, he believes it could get him to the beginning of the school year in August.

Peoria and Normal’s operation has been stopped for now, the Urbana location only has one scheduled run per day.

The Urbana location is located at 1910 N Federal Dr, Urbana, IL 61801.

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