CAIRO — The Grady County Board of Commissioners approved special bonuses Tuesday for emergency medical service employees working during the coronavirus pandemic.

EMS director Rodney Gordon’s proposal to pay an additional $600 of hazard pay for the department’s 14 full-time employees and an additional $300 for part-time employees was approved in a unanimous vote. Gordon had first requested that the county use some of its funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act on “the most important part of this organization, the human resources” in a letter dated May 13.

“We certainly want to give a little bit back to these people that are sticking their necks out,” said County Administrator Buddy Johnson. “They’re out in harm’s way and we know that. This gives them a little bit of a paycheck to go with that.”

Also approved Tuesday was Gordon’s proposal to pay “sick pay replacement bonuses” for employees covering shifts for co-workers who have been quarantined due to displaying possible symptoms of COVID-19. Any employee who covers an extra shift will be paid an additional $75.

Sick pay replacements have been “a real inconvenience” for some employees at EMS, Gordon wrote to the commissioners. In some cases, employees who have already worked 24-hour shifts have been asked to cover a second 24-hour shift with no break in between.

Several EMS employees have been quarantined for as many as 10 days after showing possible symptoms of COVID-19, Gordon said, though none have ultimately tested positive.

Both types of bonuses will be paid using funds distributed through the CARES Act. Nearly $28,000 in CARES Act money has been distributed to the Grady County, $10,500 of which will be used to purchase a portable ventilator. The bonuses will come from the remaining $17,400 and will continue to be paid until the pandemic has subsided or the funds are depleted.

Local officials are also anticipating another round of CARES Act funds to be distributed at some point. Johnson said any additional CARES Act monies likely will be saved to purchase additional medical supplies if needed.

“I certainly want to take care of our employees, but I also want to give the employees something to work with and also help them stay healthy and maybe assist us down the road,” he said. “I’m not saying we’re not going to allow some of that to be bonus money or something else, but I also want to make sure we spend this to get the best bang for our buck.”

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