County clears way for virus ‘bonuses’
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
Some county employees could get thousands of dollars in federal bonuses for having to directly interact with the public in the COVID-19 pandemic, under a plan OK’d by Darlington County Council. In a four-minute meeting Aug. 16, with no discussion or debate, council approved a resolution authorizing “premium pay,” using federal funds from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, to reward county employees who never had the option of working from home to cut their infection risk during the pandemic. Under the resolution, these employees include emergency responders, public-safety workers, volunteer firefighters, poll workers and non-emergency-response employees who’ve had to deal directly with the public since the pandemic began. The resolution sets that time period as March 9, 2020, through July 11, 2021. Different types of employees get different levels of bonuses under the resolution: — “Emergency res-ponse/public-safety-sector employees,” presumably including sheriff’s deputies, full-time firefighters and paramedics, could earn a maximum $3,000 bonus under the terms of the resolution council passed. This group of employees is to be compensated at $10 per hour of work, capped at a maximum of 300 hours. — “Non-emergency-res-ponse-sector employees” are to be compensated at $7.50 per hour of work, capped at a maximum of 300 hours. That group could get up to a $2,250 bonus. — Volunteer firefighters are to get up to a $1,000 bonus “based on previous earnings during the period,” the resolution says. — Poll workers are to get up to a $500 bonus, also based on “previous earnings during the period,” according to the resolution. Retroactive “hazard pay” for “essential front-line employees” is a feature of Biden’s plan to help shore up America’s economy after more than a year of damage from the pandemic. These bonuses are starting to show up in local governments across the nation. Other features of Biden’s plan are to benefit Darlington County, and all other local governments, in other ways that have not yet been spelled out. Also during its brief Aug. 16 meeting, County Council approved on first reading – by title only, no other information included – an ordinance to “receive and expend” American Rescue Plan funds. Details will emerge as council considers the ordinance on later readings. Under council’s rules, the first reading of any ordinance is basically automatic and largely serves to get the ordinance onto council’s agendas.