COVID-19 bonuses discussed

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Farmville Town Council discussed the possibility of using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for employee bonuses in a special called meeting on Dec. 21 to discuss the matter specifically.

After much discussion, the council unanimously voted to use all lines of contingency funds to give full-time staff a $1,000 bonus and part-time staff a $500 hazard pay bonus. Once the town’s “official loss” of revenues because of COVID-19 is calculated, the council will meet again to see if there are extra funds to give more.

This discussion came as many localities surrounding Farmville have used their federal funds to give employees hazardous duty bonuses. During the meeting, the council had the town’s auditor from Brown Edwards, Julie Moore, on the phone to answer questions about using these funds as they come with very specific stipulations.

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According to Town Manager, Dr. Scott Davis, to correctly use these funds, the council must follow the rules set by the U.S. Treasury. The rules have not been set yet. He has been in contact with the county and auditors to assess the best options.

According to Moore, the APRA funds must be used for a COVID-19 related reason with proof of how it relates. Another way to use the funds is if there is proof of revenue loss between the calendar years of 2019, 2020 and 2021. If a loss is shown, the funds can be used for whatever, including hazard pay bonuses.

Even though other localities have already used the money due to a different interpretation of the rules, this interpretation could prove wrong with the rules and guidance not yet set. As a result, those localities may have to pay extra in different ways due to the consequences. Moore recommended waiting until a loss is calculated or the guidelines are set before using the money.

“I understand everyone is concerned, but we clearly want to do it the correct way,” said Mayor David E. Whitus.

The Town Council discussed the idea of paying the COVID-19 bonuses now with contingency funds, which they could repay once the revenue loss was looked into and proven. Due to the upcoming holiday schedules, it would take a few weeks to look into the loss and get the numbers.

Greg Cole, chair of the finance committee, recognized that morale is taking a hit as employees see others in neighboring localities get raises. He feels certain that there is $500,000 to $700,000 of revenue loss just from sales and meals tax.

“I don’t have any lack of confidence that we will be able to cover this eventually once we get the figures in here,” said Cole.

There was no set date when employees can expect to see this bonus, but with the Treasurer’s Office closed on Dec. 23 and 24 for Christmas, the money will go out as soon as possible.