Because of the coronavirus pandemic, I wrote this column in my study at home. Having worked my entire life, it is a very strange feeling being idle. If someone asks me what day it is, I struggle to find an answer. Each day is pretty much the same in quarantine. Do you remember the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day”?
On a more serious note, my company, BB Riverboats, is still completely shut down because of Covid-19. Like many of you, we are making plans to reopen but do not know when this will happen. As of now, there is no indication from our governor as to when Kentucky might open things up.
We have received funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which will help. But the eight weeks of PPP funding likely will not be enough. The Passenger Vessel Association (PVA) has argued that the PPP timeframe should be extended to 24 weeks or more. We have not heard anything from the Small Business Administration (SBA) on our application for the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan program. We understand that SBA was completely overwhelmed with requests before running out of money.
A looming question is when will we be able to open our business and will passengers return? Will there be pent-up demand for recreation? I hope so. I look forward to when our customers will again spend a relaxing day out on the river aboard the Belle of Cincinnati and our other vessels.
Another important question is how we will reopen and what steps we will need to take to protect passengers and crew from Covid-19. Our plan is to use a newly released PVA document “Reopening Guidelines: Getting the Domestic Passenger Vessel Industry Back Underway.” These guidelines will help us adopt new policies that address passenger and employee health issues, social distancing, personal protective equipment, and cleaning and disinfecting our vessels and equipment. The vessels in our fleet are spacious and we will be able to social distance.
We will all persevere. My daughter Terri has organized a weekly video happy hour with other PVA members to discuss current issues, compare best practices and just socialize. I can tell you that it really helps.
We will get through this and our great country will once again prosper. Please stay home and stay safe.