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Layoffs Return To Peoria Charter Coach As PPP Money Runs Out

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Dana Vollmer
/
WCBU
Peoria Charter Coach Owner and President Bill Winkler during a press conference on Wednesday, April 15. He was joined by U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood.

Peoria Charter Coach has issued a second round of layoffs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Bill Winkler said he laid off 95% of his staff when Gov. JB Pritzker's first executive order took effect in March.

In April, the company received $1.2 million in forgivable loans under the federal Paycheck Protection Program. Winkler said that allowed them to bring back about 70 employees to do things like clean coaches and volunteer delivery to other small businesses.

But Winkler said the PPP money is running out and revenue is still near zero.

“Until the public feels comfortable indoors with a group for a long period of time, my company will continue to suffer,” he said.

Winkler said Peoria Charter has only been commissioned for three trips since the pandemic began, all for the Illinois National Guard.

Winkler said staff is now back down to eight employees, most of which are management. They could have to pare down even more, he said, if additional financial support doesn't come to fruition. He said the remaining PPP dollars are set to run out in August.

“It’s to the point where if I don’t get help from the state of Illinois or the federal, we’re going to have to close down after 78 years of business,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Winkler said, drivers remain supportive.

“When it was announced that ‘we’re going to lay you off again,’ I got a standing ovation. It just encouraged me” he said. “Because this is a furlough, this isn’t a layoff — I mean, as soon as we get business back, I’m hiring everybody back. They just said. ‘We’re for you, we thank you so much for what you’ve done … and we’ll be back.’”

Winkler said his heart goes out to all affected by the health crisis posed by the coronavirus pandemic, but there’s also an economic crisis at hand.

Winkler said he has requested state assistance from Pritzker. He’s also calling for support of the federal Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act that would provide targeted relief to the motorcoach industry.

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