TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) — Baltimore County leaders on Tuesday announced $5.2 million in new incentives and bonuses for bus drivers as they continue to deal with the ongoing nationwide driver shortage.

“Getting our students to school safely and efficiently is one of our most sacred responsibilities,” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said.

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Tuesday’s announcement comes just a day after bus drivers in two counties in our area took steps for better pay.

Bus drivers in Howard County refused to work Monday morning, disrupting about 100 routes, and causing county leaders to allocate $2 million for bonuses.

“Our bus drivers should be fairly compensated for their work that is provided to our children,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said.

In Anne Arundel County, drivers with Annapolis Bus Company unionized after going on strike in October.

“BCPS is one of many systems experiencing significant shortage of bus drivers,” Baltimore County Superintendent Darryl Williams said.

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Baltimore County schools will be offering the following to current and potential drivers: covering pre-employment background checks, fingerprinting, physical exams, drug testing and sleep apnea testing. These costs are normally paid by the drivers.

The county is also offering rewards for perfect attendance each month, a sign-on bonus, an employee referral program, a $1,000 retention bonus to be paid in December and June, greater flexibility for personal time off, and more money for doing more routes.

“In recognition of this additional work, drivers and attendants will receive a $2 per hour shift differential for the remainder of the school year,” Williams said.

The news of these bonuses is sitting well with the community.

“Yes,” said Gary Pick of Rodgers Forge. “I would say some additional pay to get some people on board would be appropriate.”

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Baltimore County’s superintendent also said work is underway to give more money, incentives and opportunities to other workers in the county school system, too.

Jessica Albert