UniteGPS – A total of 103 school bus drivers in Iowa City can anticipate a $750 hazard pay stipend for working during the COVID-19 pandemic. With help from the Teamsters Local 238 union, not only did the Iowa City School Board approve the measure on Feb. 8, but also granted the maximum amount of funding requested by bus drivers.
This is the first time the citywide school district will grant stipends to bus drivers working under Illinois Central School Bus LLC. Approximately $77,250 in aid money will come from the district’s general fund to provide the stipends to those who were driving buses from September to January.
Around 35 school bus drivers and supporters originally requested support when the school year began, concerned about pandemic working conditions and calling for more inclusion.
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Prior to including bus drivers, the Iowa City Community School District was using pandemic relief money to pay other staff. For example, $2,750 to administrators, $1,650 to teachers, $1,000 to year-round support staff, as well as $750 to paraeducators, secretaries, and nutrition services workers.
Hazard pay stipend for bus drivers
Throughout the pandemic, school bus drivers have been among the most vulnerable due to age demographics and the risk of transmission around mostly unvaccinated students, some more willing to wear masks than others.
On top of the health risks, the push for a hazard pay stipend ultimately boils down to traditionally low wages. Often without benefits, it’s not common for school bus drivers to work full-time based on the split-shift schedule and summer holidays.
To add perspective, about 90 miles west of Iowa City is Marshalltown where the starting hourly wage for a bus driver is $21.25, according to Marshalltown Community School District Transportation Director Rex Kozak.
While routes run an average of 30 minutes, drivers earn an hour and a half worth of pay for each shift, meaning three combined hours between morning and afternoon rounds. For some of the top-earning drivers, they’re earning close to $90 a day for an hour of actually engaged driving.