During COVID-19, Whitley County EMT’s, sheriff’s deputies, road department employees, deputy jailers, and others continued going to go to work every day as essential workers.
Now these workers are getting some recognition for the work that they have done over the past few months in the form of money.
During a special called meeting Tuesday afternoon, the Whitley County Fiscal Court approved distribution of employee recognition awards, which will include one-time payments of $1,000 for all full-time employees, and $500 for part-time employees.
“We have some people, who really dealt with some difficult circumstances, especially early on. In March, you didn’t know what people were walking into when you had ambulance personnel that were walking into homes to take people to the hospital. We have some really brave and hardworking people, who work for the county. When a lot of people were staying home, their services were essential,” said Whitley County Judge-Executive Pat White Jr.
“We weren’t able to pay them time and a one-half like a lot of businesses were during those times so we thought this would be a good faith showing that we appreciated them and their hard work and the effort to step out there when a lot of people were truly afraid of what was coming with this disease.”
The recognition program will cost the county about $126,000. White noted that at any given time the county has about 150 total employees, including those that work for the fiscal court and all the county offices, such as the jail, sheriff’s department and county clerk.
“It should be a real help to some people that are probably underpaid any way. Our starting wage for the county is still $9. There are some benefits associated with that, which are expensive for the county to provide,” White said.
“There are some pretty essential services that they provide too. During this really difficult period when they have stuck their necks into dangerous situations, or not been afraid and not stayed home, we are just glad to be able to do a little bit extra for them.”
White noted that there are restrictions and employees have to have been working for the county for six months in order to qualify for incentive program.
The employee recognition program isn’t directly tied to the county’s portion of CARES Act funding, which is about $500,000, and will be distributed out the county’s general fund instead.
“A large drawdown of CARES Act money has enabled us to do it. We are not allowed to use the money directly for that,” White noted.
White said the awards are based on the incentive program that fiscal court approved a few meetings ago.
Also, during Tuesday’s meeting, the fiscal court approved an emergency ordinance, which will allow it to receive $504,766.64 in CARES Act Funding.
“That will help relieve some of the struggles from the coronavirus response and how it affects county revenue,” White noted.
Whitley County Projects Director Amber Owens noted that there is another $720,000 available in CARES Act funding that the county could apply for reimbursement for through Dec. 31, 2020.