ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) -- Howard County officials on Tuesday announced they will pay over $16 million in bonuses to the county's full-time educators in a show of gratitude for their extraordinary efforts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nearly 8,400 Howard County Public School System employees are in line to receive $1,800 bonuses, a demonstration of the county's appreciation for school employees' hard work during challenging times, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said.
"For teachers and support staff, these past two years have been especially grueling, and I believe it is important, more important than ever to retain these committed educators who make our school system one of the best in the nation," Ball said.
The bonuses will be paid out in two installments, with the first payment coming on Feb. 4 followed by the second payment on June 24, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano said. He said part-time employees will get prorated bonuses.
"We have always known that educators are one of our most critical resources during normal times, and in our county we value education as a top priority," Martirano said. "This pandemic has shone a spotlight on just how important our educators are."
Roughly half of the $16.1 million will be paid for by the county's share of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, which the Board of Education matched with $8.1 million from its Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund.
While Martirano acknowledged the bonus pay represents a "significant" amount of money, he noted that no "financial incentive can match the demands that have been placed on our employees during the pandemic."
"We are not only honoring our employees' hard work and dedication, we are reinforcing that our community and county are thankful for their dedicated commitment and for showing up every day to take care of our students," the superintendent said.
The bonus pay marks the latest investment county and school officials have made in essential employees in response to their efforts over the past two years.
In August, the county awarded bonuses to 2,700 employees. In November, Ball pledged $2 million to retention and signing bonuses for school bus drivers and attendants. Recently, the county boosted substitute teachers' pay by 25%.
"(Educators) have been a lifeline to our students and their families throughout the pandemic, managing the demands of switching from virtual to hybrid to in-person (learning), all while caring for the health and safety of their own families," Ball said.
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