ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — Howard County Executive Calvin Ball on Tuesday announced he is committing $2 million of the county’s American Rescue Plan allocation to bonuses for bus drivers.

The funding will provide retention bonuses for existing bus drivers and attendants and signing bonuses for new bus drivers and attendants. The sum of each bonus hasn’t been announced.

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“With nearly 100 bus driver vacancies facing our bus driving workforce since the beginning of the school year, our existing bus drivers have often been forced to complete multiple routes at nontraditional times,” Ball said. “The impacts have been experienced deeper into our community, as families have been forced to send their children to school earlier and have them arrive back home later.”

The announcement comes on the heels of a sick-out staged by about 80 drivers in the county Monday.

“We had to take a stand and fight for what we feel like we need and what we deserve,” Bowen Bus Service driver Sharon Decker said Monday.

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Howard County isn’t the only county taking action to increase compensation for overworked bus drivers. Baltimore County on Tuesday announced a plan to increase wages for the county’s bus drivers and assist with pre-employment barriers.

Bus drivers in Anne Arundel County on Monday voted 49 to 29 to form a union despite the county’s efforts to appease them. Last week, County Executive Steuart Pittman announced cash incentives, $5,000 bonuses for both new and current drivers.

Ball said there could be more incentives on the way, thanks to the school system’s budget surplus.

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“Our school system has savings from reduced services that could also be applied to addressing the current vacancy issues while rewarding those who have continued to serve in these challenging circumstances,” Ball said.

CBS Baltimore Staff