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Tallahassee bus company joins national push for COVID-19 relief funds

Posted at 6:34 PM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-11 18:34:36-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The owners of one local bus company will join nearly 800 other motorcoach operators in the nation's Capital for 'Motorcoaches Rolling for Awareness' to ask legislators for help to keep their buses on the road.

Since March 13, buses at the Astro bus yard have been parked due to travel restrictions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

"The message is simple: We need help," said Matt Brown, the general manager of Astro Travel and Tours.

Travel restrictions have left many of Astro's employees looking for new ways to feed their families.

"We have just over 50 drivers and I feel horrible for them because none of them have been able to work," Brown said.

One driver took a roughly $350 pay cut and is now cleaning the buses he used to drive.

"Since I have the experience of detailing buses, I told him I would do it for them where I could make funds to take care of my family and help my family out," said Michael Patterson, a motorcocoach operator for Astro Travel and Tours. "So I do that for them and everything."

But, he may not even be able to do that for long.

Brown says he's able to pay the few workers he still has through loans. But he and more than 100 a motor coach companies heading to D.C. will be rallying congress for much more.

"We don't need loans, we need a bridge, we need forgivable debt, we need grants, we need something better than just a loan program," said Brown. "Those are going to be at business expenses that eventually, if were able to come out of this thing, are just going to roll into our every day operating costs, and thereby it's going to be more expensive for the traveling public."

Brown says March, April and May are the busiest times of the year for buses with school field trips, family reunions, and sporting events.

The state of Florida has the third largest number of motorcoach companies behind only California and New York.