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Thursday, June 4, 2020

Top Stories > General

School bus drivers could see layoffs due to Covid-19

Mar 30, 2020

By Patricio Robayo - staff writer

Rolling V Bus Corporation could soon feel the economic downfall of COVID-19 as schools are now closed until April 15.
story and photo
By patricio robayo

SOUTH FALLSBURG — School bus drivers will soon be drastically affected by the cancelation of classes due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
According to Rolling V Bus Corporation President Phil Vallone, he could be laying off 400 of his workers soon, which are made up of bus drivers, matrons, and mechanics, if funding does not come from the state.
Recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo closed schools across the state to help slow down the spread of COVID-19 and now has extended those closures until April 15.
Vallone, along with other bus contractors across the state, is unsure if the school districts will pay their contracted school buses for the year if they do not get the state aid.
“The school bus transportation system will be decimated, and students will be in danger if New York State fails to immediately release [the] money to school districts so school bus contractors can be paid,” said Vallone.

Moreover, Vallone says with the necessary funding, experienced bus drivers, mechanics and bus driver aides can continue to receive paychecks. And when school reopens, they can return quickly.
Vallone is not alone in this fight, and he is joining hundreds of school bus contractors from across the New York State in demanding answers from Albany and the United States Congress.
As of now, the schools are closed until April 15; however, recently, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said he could not see how the schools will reopen this year for his city.
Furthermore, Vallone says he wants the state money that has already been budgeted to be sent to the school districts to cover the remaining calendar school year that has been suspended due to COVID-19.
The Democrat reached out to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, State Senator Jen Metzger, and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther about the matter.
Senator Metzger said she was looking into the situation.
Without the funding, Vallone says thousands of bus drivers from across the state will lose their jobs.
The Democrat also reached out to some school districts but have not heard back by press time.
With the job losses, Vallone says the job vacancies will worsen the already short supply of bus drivers locally and statewide.
Because of lack of a paycheck, Vallone says they will fall out of legal compliance with regulatory agencies, which would delay drivers from getting behind the wheel when schools eventually reopen.
Vallone feels that those who will lose their job will seek jobs elsewhere, and this will put an additional strain on bus contractors.
“For everyone at Rolling V, students come first every single day. Why don't students come first for New York State?” asked Vallone.
Rolling V has been delivering meals to students while school's have been closed during this pandemic.
“The state must do what it promised: make this money available for school districts to pay school-bus contractors. The stakes here are enormous,” added Vallone.
Furthermore, Vallone says that drivers who are directly employed by the school district will still get paid but not drivers who work for a contracted bus company like Rolling V.
“Why is New York State treating a contracted school bus driver differently from a bus driver employed by a school district?” Vallone asked. “That's blatantly unfair, and the ramifications are alarming. Money should not take priority over students.”
Additionally, Vallone is asking for New York to opt-in on federal relief legislation that contains language that will protect school bus contractors.
Vallone said, “We implore our elected leaders to take advantage of this financial opportunity to help fix this problem.”

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