RIO GRANDE COUNTY — During a special meeting held by the Rio Grande County Commissioners on Wednesday, Sept. 8, the board approved what is being called "premium pay" for county employees who worked through the pandemic. The vote passed with Commissioners Gene Glover and Scott Deacon voting yes and Commissioner John Noffsker voting no.
The special meeting was the result of several work sessions and discussions on the topic once Rio Grande County received federal grant money to be used for several projects, current employee retention, and employee recruitment purposes. The funds are from the American Rescue Plan that was passed earlier this year and will include two payments to the county totaling just over $2 million by the end of 2022.
Two resolutions were discussed but only one was passed at the meeting. The resolution that passed will use a portion of the grant funding received through the American Rescue Plan to give current county employees a one-time premium payment as compensation and gratitude for everyone who worked during a pandemic.
“This is something I completely and totally support. This is federally funded grant money and not a dime comes from the county’s general fund. Our employees deserve this,” said Glover.
Previous to the resolution passing, the board and county employees discussed the premium pay and how the money should be spent throughout the county. Several department leaders voiced their opinions, stating that they felt their employees that put their health and safety at risk during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic deserved compensation for their efforts.
Commissioner Noffsker said that he was not in favor of the premium pay for employees because he felt some may take advantage of the situation, get their money, and leave.
“There has to be accountability for the sake of retaining employees,” he said.
The county received previous funding through the COVID Relief Funds last year and spent the majority of funds to help small businesses who received monies through a grant created by a board. Now, with the new funding coming through, the county will use the majority to fund projects such as a new roof for the Rio Grande County Jail and other needs.
“This premium pay for employees is only a small portion of what we will be receiving and I for one, think it's worth it. We have discussed this as much as we can and now it's time to do something,” said Commissioner Deacon.
The resolution passed and will be implemented in the coming weeks.