American Rescue Plan Act funds are being used to reward government workers who worked through the initial COVID-19 emergency period with supplemental pay.

This month, the Crossett City Council approved a measure that will grant supplemental pay to workers using ARP funds, and Hamburg Mayor David Streeter said Monday he would present a similar plan to his council in October. The Ashley County Quorum Court adopted an ordinance allowing the same in August and likewise adopted a measure correcting language in the original ordinance and reaffirming its intention in September.

“We will be able to play close to $1,500 per person if they worked during the time of emergency,” Streeter said.

The mayor said he doesn’t have a final proposal yet, but his plan was developed in part after meeting with County Judge Jim Hudson and Crossett Mayor Crystal Marshall.

Hamburg’s grant manager, Georganna Cossey, said that the ARPA funds come with a lot of oversight and that before an individual can receive supplemental pay using those funds Hamburg will have to clear that they don’t owe child support or federal taxes, among other things. 

Those who are eligible are those who had direct contact with the public or who handled materials that the public handled during the months that COVID was a declared emergency, she said.

“It can’t be telework from a residence,” she said.

When Crossett’s city council adopted a resolution setting the supplemental payments — which Marshall called premium pay — Marshall said no elected officials were included in the payout.

“Nobody is getting this except our employee team who deserve it, who were going out there every day and not knowing if they were picking up garbage where they would get COVID, or going into a home as an emergency responder, or taking water payments and not knowing if the person making the payment had COVID,” she said.

Crossett Deputy Treasurer Lisa Gulledge said the calculation for how the funds are distributed was, in simplest terms, based on a rate of $5 an hour for up to $300 hours.

The Crossett premium pay resolution set the supplements at no more than $1,500 for eligible employees hired before March 3, 2021. 

Those hired after that date were capped at $750, and seasonal employees were given $475 for working between Sept. 1, 2020 and Aug. 31, 2021.

Both Marshall and Streeter said they were working with a template provided by the Arkansas Municipal League so that there would be no confusion.

The county’s ordinance that allows for premium pay from the ARPA sets that the pay is only for essential workers, “who have been and continue to be relied on to maintain continuity of operations of essential critical infrastructure sectors and have worked during the pandemic dates of March 1, 2020 to May 30, 2021.” Those hired after the initial dates will receive a prorated pay.

The Quorum’s approved premium pay allocations amount to 230932.34 of the $1,909,071 Ashley County’s ARP funds.

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