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Rock Island County officials want to use COVID relief funds to give employees $2,000 bonuses. The idea has been tabled until December.
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Rock Island County officials want to use COVID relief funds to give employees $2,000 bonuses. The idea has been tabled until December.

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Rock Island County

The Rock Island County Office Building, Rock Island.

A plan to give all Rock Island County employees one-time bonuses from American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds has stalled.

Members of the county’s finance and personnel committee tabled it, preventing it from advancing to the full board Wednesday night, where it would have been discussed during the committee of the whole meeting.

If the bonuses are eventually approved, full-time employees would receive $2,000 each and part-time employees $500 each. County Administrator Jim Snider said the bonuses would total about $760,000.

Health department and forest preserve employees, which includes Niabi Zoo, would be excluded since they are governed by their own boards.

Committee member Rod Simmer said the matter was unanimously tabled until December. 

"I voted to table it for sure. Right now we don't know what money we're going to need for where, and we have to assess our needs," Simmer said. "Our public didn't get bonuses for doing their jobs. They went about their jobs and everybody got the $1,400 stimulus payment. A lot of people lost their jobs. We don't know how much money we will need for other services.

"It's our constituent's money; it's taxpayer money. If they didn't get any of this, why should we get any of it?" Simmer said. "We'll look at it again in December and see how it's going. That's a lot of money. There are a lot of other things we need to do, too."

Simmer said other needs in the county should take priority, such as hiring more staff in the state's attorney's office and other departments, purchasing equipment and new vehicles for the Sheriff's Department. 

"I think the people need to weigh in on this, too," he said. 

The county was allotted $27.5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act in March. According to ARPA spending guidelines, one-time bonuses are allowed for essential employees who worked during the pandemic. 

Sheriff Gerry Bustos and State's Attorney Dora Villarreal requested the bonuses on behalf of their employees. After other county employees objected to being excluded, the proposal was expanded to include all county employees.

The bonuses were briefly discussed during Monday's governance, health and administration committee. 

"I'm concerned about this across the board," Drue Mielke said Monday. "I have some questions. My gut feeling is that certainly this money needs to go to a lot of places where it is deserved. I'm just a little apprehensive about applying this across the board. I need more information to be certain."

"It's eligible; it's up to the board to decide if it's necessary," Snider said. "It's 100% eligible from ARPA under the rules. It will come down to a policy decision based on a value whether you believe that's the best use of the money."

Finance and personnel committee member Angie Normoyle said she was concerned with the timing of the request.

"I appreciate the way our elected officials are in support of their hardworking staff, but one of the issues is that we are in the midst of the budgeting process," Normoyle said. "When we get a request like that, we want to make sure we have a clear view of what we are doing with our budget. 

"We are hitting the pause button." 

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