Following her request, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is announcing new FAQs issued by the Department of Education on using emergency relief funds to address the nationwide bus driver shortage. As families, students, and schools continue to grapple with the school bus driver shortage, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sent a letter to Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona urging the agency to issue clear guidance to states and school districts about using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to hire and retain school bus drivers. Late last week, the Department of Education responded to Gillibrand’s request and issued FAQs on whether states and schools can use ESSER and Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund money that was included in the three COVID recovery bills to retain and hire bus drivers. According to the Department’s response, a state educational agency (SEA) or local educational agency (LEA) can use these funds for retention bonuses, salary increases, training, obtaining a commercial driver’s license for new drivers, and to offset the cost of hiring additional bus drivers.
“Across New York State and the country, families and schools are grappling with a school bus driver shortage that has made returning to in-person school even more difficult,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am pleased to announce that school districts and states are able to use federal funds provided by Congress in the COVID relief bills to recruit and retain school bus drivers. Following my request, the Department of Education has now made this a clear allowable use so they know exactly how they can use this critical funding to address this shortage and ease the burden on our schools and families.”
In New York alone, school districts have reported an average bus driver shortage of 15-20 percent this school year, causing additional burdens for students and families. Some bus drivers have retired early rather than risk getting sick, and issues around vaccines and masking requirements have led to drivers quitting and dissuaded potential drivers from applying for the job. Gillibrand’s push to the Department of Education has led to clearer direction on a way to alleviate the bus shortage for schools across the state.
For the Department of Education’s Full Guidance, Please Click Here.
To Read Senator Gillibrand’s Full Letter, Please Click Here.