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Gillibrand: School districts can use pandemic relief funding to address bus driver shortages

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wants school districts to know they can use federal pandemic relief funding to address bus driver shortages.

Posted: Oct 14, 2021 10:30 AM
Updated: Oct 14, 2021 10:57 AM

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wants school districts to know they can use federal pandemic relief funding to address bus driver shortages.

In 2020, more than $13 billion in CARES Act funding was set aside for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. Gillibrand says many districts don’t know they can use these funds to hire and retain bus drivers, and wants the U.S. Department of Education to issue clear guidance identifying this as an allowable use of the funding.

Gillibrand sent a letter to Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona urging him to release updated guidance.

New York schools are facing a 15 - 20% bus driver shortage, causing issues with transportation to and from school. It also contributed to Rome schools going remote last week when there was a cluster of cases among the drivers, but not enough employees to cover all of the daily routes.

Gillibrand is hoping to spread the word about the option to use federal funding in hopes that school districts find a way to use the money to address the shortages.

“The good news is that there are federal funds available to school districts to help them recruit and retain school bus drivers; unfortunately, there has not been clear guidance from the Department of Education on this allowable use,” Gillibrand said. “I am calling on the Department of Education to issue clear guidance letting states and school districts know that they can use this critical funding Congress has provided to address the school bus driver shortage and ease the burden on our schools and families.”

Local bus companies, like First Student in Rome, are offering up to $3,000 sign-on bonuses for bus drivers and an hourly wage of $20 - $22.50, but are yet to fill all of the positions.

Below is the full letter Gillibrand sent to Cardona:

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2738968

Reported Deaths: 57593
CountyCasesDeaths
Kings35054010976
Queens32740410420
Suffolk2563293692
Nassau2267643335
Bronx2135936810
New York1771674667
Westchester1484542356
Erie1256852060
Monroe982241256
Richmond929811973
Orange62410944
Onondaga59728818
Rockland55617783
Dutchess38083510
Albany34583414
Oneida33390646
Niagara28947419
Broome28368435
Saratoga24878227
Schenectady19437245
Ulster19155292
Rensselaer17502193
Chautauqua15116197
Oswego14282135
Putnam13194101
St. Lawrence12945143
Chemung12916175
Steuben12556191
Ontario11776119
Jefferson11484106
Wayne10346103
Cattaraugus10082159
Cayuga9787113
Sullivan966390
Genesee8711144
Herkimer8394143
Clinton814648
Fulton7890115
Tompkins743161
Madison7412109
Warren737496
Livingston726377
Montgomery7246162
Washington675580
Tioga641373
Cortland611389
Allegany6028122
Columbia5753113
Chenango558796
Orleans556896
Franklin545126
Otsego541163
Wyoming535667
Greene496289
Delaware444352
Lewis424040
Seneca329368
Essex300538
Schoharie272324
Yates200434
Schuyler195420
Hamilton5163
Unassigned1402
Out of NY0340
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