AUGUSTA — The city plans to pay bonuses to employees using some of its federal pandemic relief funds, paying up to $1,000 to frontline workers whose public-facing jobs put them at higher risk for exposure to the coronavirus.

Most permanent full-time city employees will receive one-time $500 bonuses while permanent part-timers will receive $250.

But, employees who work non-clerical jobs in public safety, dispatch, custodial or rubbish collection will be eligible for an additional $500 if they are full-time or an additional $250 if they are part-time, totaling $1,000 or $500, respectively.

“Those employees were all more exposed on a long-term basis, in particular during the first couple months of COVID, when City Center and other offices were shut down,” City Manager Susan Robertson said of why city workers involved in police, fire, dispatching custodial and rubbish collection work will get larger bonuses. “I think they’d be the ones that should benefit the most from the recognition, and that’s why this is broken out the way it is.”

Robertson said the bonuses, or premium pay, will reward employees, many of whom took on additional responsibilities either directly or in order to cover the responsibilities of other employees who were out sick with COVID-19. She said premium pay for essential employees is one of the eligible uses for the federal funds.

“I think our employees have — and some more so than others — been at the forefront of dealing with COVID and the impacts on our community,” she told city councilors last week. “We also continue to have COVID issues in the workplace, where people have to do extra work to cover for people (who) are out. I think the morale of the employees is lagging a bit, and this would be a way to send a positive message to employees that the work they do and the efforts they put forth through the last two years have been appreciated.”


The move will use up $163,000 of the city’s roughly $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Robertson said employees who do not qualify for the bonus — such as those who don’t meet the federal definition of doing essential work — will be given one day of administrative leave instead.

City officials have yet to decide how Augusta will use the rest of its ARPA funds.

Augusta city councilors voted unanimously Thursday in favor of spending $163,000 in ARPA funds for the employee bonuses.

The decision is in line with other Kennebec County cities, including Waterville and Gardiner.

In Gardiner, city employees get $1,000 each and department heads $2,000, costing the city just under $70,000 of its roughly $600,000 in ARPA funding.


Interim City Manager Anne Davis said city hall closed for only a couple of weeks while officials figured out a way to reopen safely, while some city workers, such as public safety workers, kept doing their jobs throughout the pandemic.

“All our staff took a chance coming to work every day,” Davis said. “Everybody came in. And our public safety people, they even went into houses” during the pandemic.

Last December city councilors in Waterville voted to use $150,000 in ARPA money to pay bonuses to employees. City Manager Steve Daly said full-time employees would get $1,000 each and part-time workers $500 each.

Police patrol officers, detectives and dispatchers were to get an additional $500, or $1,500 each. Full-time fire department employees were to get $1,500 each and the list of on-call firefighters presented by fire Chief Shawn Esler $500 each as they worked through the state of emergency, he said.

Waterville officials anticipate the city will get about $1.7 million in ARPA funds.

In Hallowell, City Manager Gary Lamb said the idea has come up for discussion but councilors have not yet decided exactly how Hallowell should use the $252,000 in ARPA funds it has been awarded, including whether to use some of it to pay employees a premium.


He said that would be a city council decision, and that councilors are taking their time before deciding how to use that money.

Municipalities have until 2024 to determine how to use the funds.

In addition to ARPA funds received directly by municipalities, Kennebec County was awarded more than $23.7 million in ARPA funds, for which is has received about $47 million in grant requests.

The American Rescue Plan Act funnels federal funds to county and local governments that were left out of earlier federal COVID-19 relief funding to cover costs associated with the emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic or its economic impact and water and sewer infrastructure, among other things.

Kennebec County officials are reviewing funding requests from other entities in the county, though some of those funds have already been committed. The county is using some of those funds for its own uses, including premium pay for essential county employees and to pay incentives to county employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

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