In this May 13, 2020, photo, a sign announces the suspension of service of Concord Coach Lines at a transportation center in Portland. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

A program to help the U.S.’s bus companies survive the coronavirus pandemic that was championed by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is now accepting applications.

The Republican co-wrote the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services grant program and said this week that the program is now open. The program is slated to provide $2 billion in coronavirus relief to bus, motorcoach and other passenger vessel companies.

The pandemic has hit the nation’s approximately 3,000 private bus lines hard. Nearly all of them were shut down in the early stages of the pandemic and many have struggled to recover since.

“Bus and motorcoach companies, ferries, and tour boats sustain good-paying jobs and provide critical transportation services. The COVID-19 pandemic took an enormous toll on these businesses, many of which are small and family owned,” Collins said.

Collins co-wrote the proposal with Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island. The senators said that every bus and vessel company that meets eligibility criteria and submits a completed application will receive a grant.

The bus companies employed about 100,000 people before the pandemic. Many of the companies have furloughed workers during the pandemic.

Story by Patrick Whittle.