The Union County Quorum Court on Thursday voted to provide bonuses of $500 to county workers employed through the first half of 2022.
The bonuses are premium pay for the potential exposure to COVID-19 county employees face in their jobs, said District 5 Justice of the Peace Carolyn Jones.
"We have that money and I recommended it. Our employees are exposed wherever they work in the county," Jones said. "I think we should give it to the employees, because, after all, if we don't use it, we'll have to send it back."
The funds for the bonuses will come from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), signed into law in 2021 by President Joe Biden as a COVID stimulus package.
Full- and part-time county workers employed from January 1 through June 30, 2022 will be eligible to receive the bonuses.
District 7 JP Johnny Burson noted that schools throughout the state also provided bonuses for employees related to their COVID exposure. The El Dorado School District, for example, announced in May that teachers would be provided with hazard pay for "student-contact" days -- days they interacted with students -- during the 2021/2022 school year.
"This is money that we don't get every year. This will be the last time we will be able to do this, but I truly believe that you deserve this, for real," said ESD Superintendent Jim Tucker when he announced the bonuses at the Teacher Excellence Awards last month.
Jody Cunningham, administrative assistant to the county judge, said approximately 210 county workers will qualify for the bonus. Elected officials will not receive bonuses, however, due to guidelines in ARPA which prohibit them from receiving premium pay through the funds provided for in the law.
"It's basically just a conflict of interest since y'all approve it," Cunningham explained to JPs, noting that the guidance prohibiting their receiving bonuses through ARPA came out on January 6.
Present JPs voted unanimously in favor of the bonuses. Cunningham said Friday the checks will be cut in July.
The total cost of the bonuses, including taxes and retirement, will be approximately $130,000, she said.