SKOWHEGAN — The town of Skowhegan is planning to use federal COVID-19 pandemic relief funds this week to pay holiday bonuses to full- and part-time employees.

Discussions on how to use the funds have been ongoing for weeks as officials looked for the best ways to spend more than $870,000 the town will receive over two years as part of the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

Giving bonuses “is something that has been kicked around the table a little bit at workshops,” said Todd Smith, chairman of the Skowhegan Board of Selectmen. “This is something I’ve brought forward at the last minute, but if we’re going to (pay bonuses), maybe we can help facilitate something for our employees during the holidays.”

After lengthy deliberations Tuesday evening, the Board of Selectmen agreed to pay $2,000 bonuses to the town’s full-time employees and $1,000 to part-time workers. Discussions are ongoing between the board and department heads on how to use the rest of the federal funding, including whether to issue bonuses to other employees.

Selectmen Paul York was first to pitch the idea of bonuses for municipal employees, saying he believed if the money were to be given to any town employee, “it should be across the board.”

“All of our employees are valuable employees and have continued to keep things going,” York said.


Selectmen Harold Bigelow offered a different approach, saying it should be taken into consideration that different departments have had “different levels of exposure” to the coronavirus.

“As far as I’m concerned, there were different levels of exposure,” Bigelow said. “I do agree we oughta do something across the board before Christmas, and that’s what I’m here for now. When this pandemic first started, (the Town Office) shut the front doors and it was very obvious that the Police and Fire departments were still out.

“When the Fire Department went out, there was no closed doors, there was no plastic shields. They were coming into people’s houses.”

Chief Shawn Howard of the Skowhegan Fire Department said every employee deserves a bonus, although he appreciated Bigelow’s sentiment.

“I think that while (the bonuses) are generous and the employees (at the Fire Department) could use what you’re proposing, and it’s a good thing, it’s not enough,” Howard said. “I’m not saying you should do more tonight. I’m saying that we’re going to look in other ways, at least for my department, what we do moving forward in these times.

“What I’m saying here, with what’s being proposed, is that these people behind me are just as deserving. This isn’t the place to look at who responded, who had this many exposures. Everybody was under a lot of stress here.”


The town of Skowhegan has received its first installment of federal funding, with the final payment expected in 2022. Federal rules require the money to be spent by the end of 2026. The Board of Selectmen has held a few workshops with department heads to consider ways to spend the money.

In Waterville, city officials voted last week to pay $1,000 bonuses to full-time employees and $500 to part-time employees. Police patrol officers, detectives and dispatchers are to receive an additional $500.

In Madison, officials decided last month to spend $33,000 in federal relief money to issue $1,500 to each full-time employee and bonuses ranging from $100 to $1,250 to part-time employees.

Anson officials decided in November to spend $70,600 of $250,000 in federal funding to pay bonuses to the Fire Department and AMS Ambulance Service. The bonuses ranged from $200 to $3,700.

Under federal rules, the COVID-19 pandemic relief funding may be used in four areas: In response to COVID-19 and its negative economic impact; to provide premium pay to eligible workers responding to the public health emergency; to ensure funding for essential government services; and for investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

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