Why Carroll’s Windstar, other charter-bus companies deserve federal coronavirus relief

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United Airlines is based in Chicago. Delta in Atlanta. The Goliath airlines flew first class themselves, with early-bird seating no less, in the federal relief package for coronavirus-affected businesses.

The airlines’ quick take: $25 billion from Congress, and that doesn’t include the $3 billion that’s going to contractors who handle luggage, food service, cleaning and other airport activity.

We aren’t going to argue the merits of that spending.

But Carroll, Iowa, is the home to a vital and growing transportation company, too. Windstar Lines, a family owned charter-bus company, is one of the top 20 motorcoach businesses in the United States out of 3,000 such enterprises.

The motorcoach industry provides 600 million passenger trips annually, almost as many as the airlines.

But so far, compared to the airlines, charter-bus businesses are turning up little in the way of coronavirus relief.

That’s not right. And it certainly isn’t good for Carroll.

Which is why anyone who cares about Carroll’s economy should call U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley’s office after reading this and ask him to support coronavirus relief for motorcoach companies.

We are encouraged with what we are seeing from Grassley.

Charter bus companies are getting renewed attention as Congress considers further relief packages related to the effects of COVID-19, Grassley said in a conference call with the Carroll Area Development Corporation Thursday morning.

And Iowa’s senior senator spoke directly about motorcoach companies like Windstar with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has led the Trump administration’s negotiations with Congress on stimulus and relief monies.

Motorcoach companies collectively are requesting $15 billion in grants and loans and modifications to Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection Program to help save the industry from failing.

Windstar has lost 97 percent of its business during what are peak months for motorcoach travel in the United States.

Only a handful of its 152 buses are running, and those are on contract for a shuttle service between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Windstar has 406 employees in seven states. It’s based in Carroll and poised, based on foresighted and aggressive leadership from the Greteman family and the geographic good fortune of being located in the middle of the United States, to grow even more.

Perhaps the airlines are too big to fail. Fair enough. But Windstar and its colleagues in the motorcoach industry shouldn’t be too small to save.

You know this. Grassley knows this. But remind him.

Call his office at 202-224-3744 and urge the senator to support motorcoach companies and Carroll’s Windstar in particular. Yes, you can email or text or call other members of Congress, but it will have more impact to rack up the phone call numbers with the member of Iowa’s federal delegation with the most power. That’s Grassley. So please call him.

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