If you don't have a seat at the table, you're on the menu
Times, they are a changing they say. We are experiencing exciting times at The Transportation Alliance (TTA). This year has brought new opportunities to the TTA and its members. In late 2022 TTA hired Abena Bonso-Bruce to serve as its next Executive Director. In January TTA launched a new user-friendly website. And TTA started the year on a post-pandemic trajectory that has seen membership increase and business opportunities grow for its members. Even TTA’s legislative approach and strategy got a little facelift as started the year with a new Congress and new leadership on both sides of the aisle. What hasn’t changed is TTA’s legislative focus and priorities, which were front and center during its annual Capitol Hill fly-in in April.
In April a group of owner/operators from across the country flew into Washington to take its case to The Hill now that we are post-COVID and Capitol Hill is reopened to the people. To help kick off the event and the week, Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV) introduced H. Res. 326, expressing support for designating the week of April 24-29, 2023, as “National Small Businesses in For-Hire Transportation Week.”
This was a great way to signal to Washington that we were here, and we were going to be heard. It was an opportunity for TTA members to have a seat at the table with those elected leaders who have jurisdiction over issues impacting our industry and our business's bottom line. Going to Washington isn’t new for TTA and its members. TTA has been hitting The Hill for over a decade and has had success. How Washington operates today is a turnoff to most, but as former President George Bush once said, “if you aren’t at the table, you are on the menu.” That also applies to any organization that simply believes they can’t make a difference in Washington. You can, but I will say, it is painfully slow in most cases. TTA can’t afford to sit back and hope for the best. Our politics are hyper-partisan. Our legislative process is slower than a turtle. That doesn’t sound positive I know, but whether you like it or not, we must be at the table and then fight hard each and every day to stay there. This is the only way we have success.
The week started off with a robust discussion of the key issues impacting TTA members. We understand that there are a lot of other issues out there impacting your business, but during the TTA fly-in, we focused on those immediate needs and items on the congressional agenda. Here is a look at some of the priorities for the year:
Workforce development – TTA is working with key members of Congress on legislation that would create new visa opportunities and new opportunities for us to recruit and retain talented individuals. To be clear, this is not immigration reform. This is a very targeted plan to help our small businesses have access to the workers they need going forward. WSA is working with Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) on legislation that creates opportunities for us through an expanded, but limited visa program.
Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) forgiveness – This is not Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness all over. This is another very targeted loan forgiveness program that is paid for with unused money allocated during the pandemic. This is for those small businesses still struggling to recover from the pandemic. Some will say we are just spending more money we don’t have. Yes and no. Yes, we have a 31 trillion-dollar national debt. Yes, you read that correctly. What we are proposing helps offset some of this debt. Think of it this way, if we don’t help these businesses, they continue to struggle or worse, fail. That is not good for any community which relies on small businesses for jobs and revenue. If we don’t help these small businesses today, then our community is worse off because these small businesses will no longer able to sponsor our local schools, sports teams, high school marching bands, teachers, or other activities promoted and paid for by local small businesses. TTA is working with Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV) on a targeted approach that helps small businesses in every community.
Non-Emergency Medical Transportation – NEMT continues to be a top priority for the TTA. We have achieved success by codifying NEMT services, which is a big deal. No longer can a President simply eliminate or change these services. This has to now be through an act of Congress, which is not easy today. This year we continue to push forward with our champions, Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), and Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA), on expanding NEMT services to Medicare beneficiaries who need transportation to and from dialysis treatment. This is a move to begin to expand NEMT services to the greater group of Medicare beneficiaries beyond just dialysis.
Independent Contractor – Last year the Biden Administration set in motion a new rulemaking to change the definition of what it means to be an independent contractor. This change would impact on our industry in a negative way and would not only hurt our drivers, who want the flexibility of being an independent contractor, but our businesses, who cannot afford the added costs to make their drivers’ employees. The proposed changes would be devastating to the industry and put many businesses out of business. To help us protect our current status, TTA has joined the national Coalition For Workplace Innovation, which is made up of some of the biggest companies in the country. Not only is TTA a member, but we hold a seat on the executive committee, which means we have a seat at the table and voice in the legislating, regulatory, and legal processes.
Not a bad week! While in Washington, we received a lot of support for our issues and the solutions we are bringing to the table. We are not here just complaining and telling Congress to fix it. We are telling Congress how we can be a partner and how the solutions we are offering will make a real difference. That’s how you get to the policy-making table and how you stay there. One way we are doing that is through partnerships with the Veteran’s Administration. The VA has a work program for Veterans, which TTA members are taking advantage of. Not only to our businesses get helped by hiring veterans, we get the help and support of the VA, who works with the veteran on issues that may impact their work life. Its innovative programs like this that TTA is pursuing to help its members and their businesses.
So, can I count on you this year?
TTA President Jeb Corey and TTA E.D. Abena Bonso-Bruce with Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV)
Jackie Helman, Vocational Rehabilitation Coordinator for the VA and Robert McBride talk how the industry and VA can assist veterans in their efforts to get back to work.