The Ontario Ministry of Education, in partnership with SBO announced that the School Bus Driver Retention Program (DRP) would continue for the next two school terms (periods) – September to December 2020 and January to June 2021. Once again, eligible school bus drivers could receive up to two separate retention bonuses of $1,000 (less applicable taxes) for each term, based on continuous employment in each term. Eligibility criteria for bonus payments to school bus drivers, and all related claims and other DRP processes will remain the same as in previous periods.
In 2017, the Province of Ontario, through the Ministry of Education, committed up to $60 million dollars to fund three bonus payments directly to eligible school bus drivers for the January to June 2018, September to December 2018, and January to June 2019 school semesters as a reward for continuous employment within each period. The purpose of the bonuses is to enhance school bus driver recruitment and retention among school bus operators in the Province of Ontario. The Ontario School Bus Association (OSBA) is pleased to be administering this program (also referred to as the “DRP”) – an initiative in partnership with the Ministry of Education and other industry stakeholders.
To be eligible for the bonus payments, school bus drivers must meet the eligibility requirements including being employed by a school bus operator that provides to and from school student transportation services in Ontario for one or more of the prescribed Educational Organizations including student transportation consortia, school boards, school authorities and provincial and demonstration schools identified by the Ministry of Education which can be viewed at this link.
Click here to view: School Bus Driver Eligibility Criteria
Click here to view: School Bus Driver Consent Form
Click here to view: Education Organizations
Bonuses (less applicable taxes) will be paid directly to eligible school bus drivers. PLEASE NOTE: DRP bonus payments are not an entitlement based only on past employment as a school bus driver. The purpose and intent of the DRP, as designed by the Ontario Ministry of Education, is to reward school bus drivers for meeting the eligibility criteria, including continuous employment during a payment period. The bonus payments are a financial incentive to stay on the job during the payment period, and are not automatic payments earned only by working historically as a school bus driver. A cheque will be mailed to each eligible school bus driver via Canada Post from a “Service Provider” (payroll company) hired by the Ministry of Education. The Service Provider will also mail T4A’s via Canada Post directly to each driver. Individual school bus drivers do not need to sign-up or register for the bonus payments, but they must complete a consent form and provide the consent form to their school bus operator employer.
Eligible school bus operator employers that participate in this program, will collate and verify information about their school bus drivers in order to submit a claims submission document for bonus payments. A program guide, tools, templates and training has been provided to support school bus operator employers with their submissions.
Employers are aware of their eligible and non-eligible drivers and can advise of a driver’s status. As previously noted, bonus payments to drivers are payable approximately 5 months after the end of each school period, however this is not guaranteed and could change based on various circumstances. This allows time for school bus drivers to submit Exception Application Forms to their school bus operator employers if required, for school bus operators to complete all their paperwork regarding the claims submission process, and for DRP to complete its review of the claims submissions and Exception Application Forms for over 17,000 school bus drivers.
When the eligibility criteria were announced on May 1, 2018, a number of concerns were raised about the 95% attendance criteria. OSBA and ISBOA discussed those concerns with the Ministry of Education and industry stakeholders. As a result, an exception process was created to ensure more widespread inclusion under the DRP. The Ministry of Education and industry stakeholders want to ensure that the largest number of school bus drivers as possible receive the driver retention bonus while still fulfilling the objectives and the parameters of the Program. To achieve this goal, certain exceptions were permitted. A school bus driver who meets all of eligibility criteria #1 to #5 but does not meet the minimum percentage of days worked (95% attendance) may be eligible for an exception in order to qualify for a bonus payment.
To request an exception, a school bus driver must apply by completing, signing and submitting the Exception Application Form to their school bus operator employer. In order to be considered for an exception, school bus drivers MUST complete Parts 1 to 3 of this form and return it to their school bus operator employer. PLEASE NOTE: Exception Application Forms are not required for absences within the allowable 5% – it will be assumed that any absence described in an Exception Application Form is over and above the allowable days. Any Exception Application Form that is incomplete in ANY way, will be denied (including sections requiring boxes to be checked and details under “Please specify”)
Please note that the Exception Application Form for Periods #1 to #5 will NOT be accepted in Period #6. If any Period #1 to #5 Exception Application Forms are submitted in Period #6, they will be automatically denied and the driver will NOT receive a bonus payment.
Click here to view: Exception Application Form
T4A’s will be mailed to all school bus drivers who received a bonus payment. If a T4A has not been received, drivers MUST contact their employer to verify their mailing address is correct. Employers will forward any address changes and follow up with the DRP Call Centre.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Click here to view: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
DRIVERS – Please do not contact the DRP Call Centre regarding the following items – Please contact your school bus operator employer only:
- Whether or not you will receive a bonus payment.
- Individual driver eligibility/non-eligibility or about individual Exception Application Forms.
- Change of mailing address – your employer will forward to the DRP Call Centre.
- If you do not receive a cheque within 30 days of the end of a school term, and your employer has advised that you are eligible to receive one, please contact your employer as they must follow up with the DRP Call Centre.
The purpose of the DRP Call Centre is to provide general information about the DRP only. The Call Centre does not have individual driver information about eligibility.
Click here to view: The 2019 Ministry of Education news release.