Ga. city gives $91,000-thank you to FFs for perseverance through pandemic
The funds, made available through the American Rescue Plan, amounted to a $1-an-hour raise for Louisville essential workers
The Augusta Chronicle, Ga.
LOUISVILLE, Ga. — Louisville recently thanked its employees for their dedication by providing each of them a bonus check for risking exposure to COVID-19 while continuing to work during the pandemic.
The city used $91,000 to pay its 66 employees what amounted to a $1-an-hour raise for one year of service. The funds were made available through the American Rescue Plan under its premium pay for essential workers program.
"It was certainly for recognition because none of our staff had the luxury of staying home during the pandemic," City Administrator Ricky Sapp said. "They still had to work, and they had a higher exposure due to that. So, as a reward, the council decided to provide retroactive premium pay."
The city of Wadley and the Jefferson County commissioners have also taken advantage of these funds in this way since they were made available earlier this year.
Louisville is also using $125,000 from the American Rescue Plan funding to support a housing rehabilitation project.
Mayor Jenny Smith explained that there are four primary categories in which these funds can be utilized and that the premium pay for government employees who worked during the pandemic is the easiest to implement.
"This was one of the most specific and clear-cut allowed uses of that money," Smith said. "This time was kind of unprecedented. These employees worked through COVID and put themselves at risk. Particularly we wanted to highlight the volunteer firefighters. They had to go into people's homes. It was a way to give them a little bit of a financial reward for the risk they took during that time frame."
Every employee, both full and part time, who normally receives a paycheck from the city of Louisville was included: sanitation workers, police officers, volunteer firefighters, everyone.
"Out of all of the uses we are allowed to do with these funds, this is the no-brainer," Sapp said. "They should be rewarded for what they've done and what they continue to do."
Most of the city's service providers could not just go home, they had to work in the field, most of them every day.
"Think about the chances for exposure," Sapp said. "From the guys picking up yard debris or the ones we sent out to fix a water leak or to read meters. We couldn't not do it. You had to pick up the trash and run the water, sewer and gas. We had to have police and we had to have firemen."
The city was fortunate over the past year to only have three employees test positive for COVID-19.
"But there were a number who were exposed and had to go into quarantine," Sapp said. "We were all exposed in here, and so we had to go get tested. I was tested six times, and that was mainly so I could keep working."
The city council approved the payments during its July council meeting and dispersed checks to employees the next day.
Councilman Larry Atkins advocated for the city to support the volunteer firefighters at the level it did, Smith said, and pushed for the city to do more than just deposit the money in employee accounts, but to hold a ceremony to say thank you.
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