Shiawassee may be the only county in Michigan to give COVID-19 relief funds to elected officials
UPDATE: Shiawassee County Elected Officials Agree to Refund COVID-19 Risk Payments
UPDATE: Shiawassee County Confirms 6 Employees Received $ 25,000 Each in COVID-19 Relief Fund
SHIAWASSEE COUNTY, MI – There are 83 counties in Michigan, but Shiawassee County may be the only one in the state giving COVID-19 relief funds to elected officials.
Shiawassee County Commissioners’ Council members last week paid high-level administrators and commissioners up to $ 25,000 each as a risk bonus, more than 10 times more than they paid workers in frontline workers who have been directly exposed to the coronavirus while doing their job in person.
Stephan Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties, told MLive-The Flint Journal in a statement Wednesday, July 21, that his group has been working closely with counties on how best to use federal funds in the plan. rescue fund (ARP), but has not heard from other people planning to pay a risk premium to elected officials.
“We are not aware of any other county considering payments to elected officials, and the MAC has not provided any guidance or advice on doing so,” the statement from Currie said.
“With the help of many partners, MAC has provided a wealth of resources on how to use US bailout funds and properly comply with federal guidelines and the spirit of the law to all of our member counties. . Decisions, however, ultimately rest with the county council of commissioners in each county, ”the statement said. “MAC continues to work with all of our members on any questions or concerns they have with ARP funds.”
Records obtained by MLive-The Flint Journal show that Shiawassee County’s “top administrators”, including board chairman Jeremy R. Root, received $ 25,000 each from ARP funds while chiefs department each received $ 12,500. Those responsible for “middle management” received $ 5,000 each, while chief assistants, Department of Health employees and county prosecutors received $ 2,500.
The breakdown written by County Coordinator Brian Boggs shows that employees identified as “cleaning staff” received $ 2,000 each and all other employees received $ 1,000.
MLive-The Flint Journal was unable to reach Root or Boggs to comment on the cash distributions.
A spokesperson for the US Department of the Treasury said the wording of the interim final rules released by the agency make it clear that ARP dollars used for the risk premium should prioritize low-income workers who have been hit so hard. disproportionate by the pandemic and to essential workers who faced the greatest risk of exposure.
A list of frequently asked questions of the Treasury Department’s website defines essential workers as employees “in areas of critical infrastructure who regularly perform work in person, interact with others at work, or physically handle objects manipulated by others.”
Only essential workers who regularly perform face-to-face work, interact with others at work, or physically handle objects handled by others are eligible for the federal funds risk premium, the spokesperson said.
States and localities will be required to account for their use of these funds and show that they have been spent in accordance with Treasury guidelines.
Shiawassee County Commissioner Cindy L. Garber, who received a payment of $ 5,000, said Tuesday, July 20, that she believed officials followed federal guidelines on spending COVID-19 relief funds.
“I worked in person… I was there every day,” said Garber, who said she had no intention of returning the money that was given to her.
In addition to Garber and Root, Shiawassee County Commissioners John B. Plowman and Brandon Marks received $ 10,000, and the other three Commissioners each received $ 5,000.
Commissioner Marlene Webster said she was returning the risk premium deposited to her bank account, and said the decision to provide the extra money to county employees last week was never detailed to show payments to commissioners.
Garber said lower-level employees were already receiving additional compensation during the pandemic because they were receiving additional unemployment benefits while being made redundant one day a week.
“I’m going to take (President Joe Biden’s) advice and spend the money… it’s meant to stimulate the economy,” Garber said.
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Michigan reports four-day total of 1,028 new coronavirus cases July 17-20