THOMASVILLE — Thomas County commissioners have adopted a tentative plan that may put a little extra in the pockets of the county’s essential workers.
Commissioners approved a tentative plan Tuesday morning that would use the county’s proceeds from the American Rescue Plan Act to compensate essential county workers.
The county will receive a total of $8.6 million, and the first $4.3 million installment arrived in the bank Monday, County Manager Mike Stephenson said. The next payment will be in 12 months, and any money not spent before December 31, 2024 goes back to the federal government.
The exception, Stephenson said, is money allocated for what is being called premium pay. The county is eligible to reward premium pay retroactively to January 27, 2020 until the national emergency is declared over.
“We have no indication when the national emergency will be terminated,” Stephenson said.
But the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia advised that is better to proceed with premium pay rather than wait, Stephenson said.
“We do want to deal with premium pay now that we have some funds available,” he said. “I don’t suspect they will terminate the national emergency anytime soon.”
County department officials are working on the hours worked by employees over the 26 pay periods starting last January.
Federal rules spell out 36 different categories of essential workers who could not socially distance. A 37th category allows for a county’s chief executive officer to designate a worker as essential who does not fit into the other 36.
Employees who worked from home won’t be eligible for premium pay, and department heads will review their records to see which employees worked from home and when they did.
The tentative plan also makes retired employees and those who resigned in good standing from the county eligible for premium pay. Full-time, part-time and temporary workers are eligible.
Stephenson told commissioners the final discretion will be left to them.
There also are caps on how much premium pay. The first cap is $13 per hour and the second is a total of $25,000 to an employee. When premium pay is added to regular pay, the sum total cannot exceed 150% of the average pay of all occupations in the state, Stephenson said. The annual average pay in the state is $52,000, making that a maximum of $78,000 with premium pay.
The county is projecting allocating $6 million of its ARPA funds to premium pay, with $500,000 to offset the impacts to non-profits, $500,000 to Thomas County Area Transit Service and $500,000 for improvements to broadband in unserved or underserved rural areas. That leaves the county with $1.1 million in uncommitted ARPA funds.
Editor Pat Donahue can be reached at (229) 226-2400 ext. 1806.