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Augusta to pay city employees COVID-19 cash bonus

AUGUSTA — The city plans to pay bonuses to employees using some of its federal pandemic relief funds, paying up to $1,000 to frontline workers whose public-facing jobs put them at greater risk high exposure to coronavirus.

Most permanent full-time city employees will receive one-time bonuses of $500, while permanent part-time employees will receive $250.

But, employees who work in non-administrative jobs in public safety, dispatch, guard or garbage collection will be entitled to an additional $500 if they are full-time or an additional $250 if they are part-time , for a total of $1,000 or $500, respectively.

“These employees were all at greater long-term exposure, especially during the first two months of COVID, when downtown and other offices were closed,” City Manager Susan Robertson said, explaining why employees at the city involved in policing, fires, dispatching guard work and garbage collection will get bigger bonuses. “I think they’re the ones who should benefit the most from the recognition, and that’s why it’s split like this.”

Robertson said the bonuses, or bonuses, will reward employees, many of whom have taken on additional responsibilities either directly or to cover the responsibilities of other employees who were sick with COVID-19. She said the bonus for essential employees is one of the eligible uses of federal funds.

“I think our employees have — and some more than others — been at the forefront of managing COVID and the impacts on our community,” she told city councilors last week. “We also continue to have COVID issues in the workplace, where people have to do extra work to cover people (who) are away. I think employee morale is lagging a bit, and that would be a way to send a positive message to employees that the work they’re doing and the effort they’ve put in over the past two years has been appreciated.

The move will use $163,000 of the city’s roughly $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Robertson said employees who don’t qualify for the bonus — such as those who don’t meet the federal definition of essential work — will be granted an administrative day off instead.

City officials have not yet decided how Augusta will use the rest of its ARPA funds.

Augusta city councilors voted unanimously Thursday to spend $163,000 in ARPA funds for employee bonuses.

The decision is consistent with other towns in Kennebec County, including Waterville and Gardiner.

In Gardiner, city employees receive $1,000 each and department heads $2,000, costing the city just under $70,000 of its approximately $600,000 in ARPA funding.

Acting City Manager Anne Davis said City Hall only closed for a few weeks while officials figured out a way to reopen safely, while some city employees, such as police officers public safety, continued to do their job throughout the pandemic.

“All of our staff took a chance on coming to work every day,” Davis said. “Everyone came in. And our public safety officers, they even went into homes” during the pandemic.

Last December, Waterville city councilors voted to use $150,000 in ARPA money to pay employee bonuses. City manager Steve Daly said full-time employees would receive $1,000 each and part-time workers $500 each.

Police patrolmen, detectives and dispatchers were to receive an additional $500, or $1,500 each. Full-time firefighters were to receive $1,500 each and the list of on-call firefighters presented by Fire Chief Shawn Esler $500 each while working during the state of emergency, he said .

Waterville officials anticipate the city will receive approximately $1.7 million in ARPA funds.

In Hallowell, City Manager Gary Lamb said the idea had been discussed, but councilors had yet to decide exactly how Hallowell should use the $252,000 in ARPA funds allocated to him, including if part of it had to be used to pay a bonus to the employees.

He said it would be a decision of the city council and councilors were taking their time deciding how to use the money.

Municipalities have until 2024 to determine how to use the funds.

In addition to ARPA funds received directly from municipalities, Kennebec County received more than $23.7 million in ARPA funds, for which it received approximately $47 million in grant applications.

The American Rescue Plan Act directs federal funds to counties and local governments that have been excluded from previous federal COVID-19 relief funding to cover costs associated with the emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic or its impact. economy and water and sewage infrastructure, among other things .

Kennebec County officials are reviewing requests for funding from other county entities, although some of those funds have already been committed. The county is using a portion of these funds for its own uses, including bonuses for essential county employees and to pay incentives to county employees to get their COVID-19 shots.

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