Horry County considers $1,500 bonus for workers using COVID-19 relief funds

Grand Strand

CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry County employees would receive a $1,500 bonus if Horry County Council approves a tentative plan for how to spend the county’s $68.8 million share of the American Rescue Plan Act.

The county’s Administration Committee approved a resolution sending the plan to County Council Tuesday afternoon. Council members will consider the plan, which allocates $4.25 million for extra COVID-19 pay, at their Sept. 7 meeting.

“It’s sort of a pay bonus thing for the people who have worked through the covid crisis and that have lost time or lost money, that sort of thing. People who have gone over and above in Horry County, we’re going to allocate some money to that too,” said Horry County Councilman Johnny Vaught.

Beth Tranter, who works in the county’s development office, said it’s important for the county to stay flexible so that money can be reallocated as federal guidelines evolve.

“We’re putting together a framework for how we are going to be expending those funds,” she said. “There’s an opportunity to true-up throughout the process as plans change and costs change.”

The plan breaks the spending into 20 categories based on two payments from the federal government. The county received half of its share, $34.4 million. in June. It will get the remaining $34.4 million in June 2022. The money must be spent by June 2024, officials said.

“The thing is you can’t use it for recurring expenses. You have to use it for one time expenses and you have to tie it to something covid recovery related,” Vaught said.

Following is a breakdown of the county’s tentative plan and how much would be allocated from each half of the appropriations:

  • COVID-19 extra pay: 4.25 million; entire amount from initial appropriation
  • Beach bathrooms: $1.5 million; $500,000, $1 million
  • Beach parking: $2.5 million; 1 million, $1.5 million
  • Road improvements: $25.7 million; 10 million, 15.7 million
  • Coast RTA operations: $750,000; entire amount from second appropriation
  • Services to disproportionately impacted communities and infrastructure (to be allocated based on proposals: $16.2 million; $8.2 million, 8 million
  • Touchless payment system (Coast RTA): $440,000; entire amount from second appropriation
  • Accessible playgrounds: $500,000; $250,000 per allocation
  • Cybersecurity: $2.8 million: $1.4 million per allocation
  • Remote working capability: $1 million; $500,000 per allocation
  • ROD digitalization: $1.5 million: $1 million, $500,000
  • Land for economic development: $1 million; entire amount initial allocation
  • DHEC South Strand: $100,000; entire amount from initial allocation
  • COVID impact (waste management): 700,000; entire amount from initial allocation
  • Online payments fees: $100,000; entire amount from initial allocation
  • Facilities information technology enhancement: $100,000; entire amount from initial allocation
  • PPE and other direct expenses: $673,575 million; $300,000, $373,575
  • County facilities upgrades: $1 million; $500,000 per allocation
  • Administrative expenses: $1.03 million; $515,820 per allocation
  • Contingency: $6.8 million; $3.4 per allocation

County officials put the plan together after going through a public comment process that ended on Aug. 17. It included a public hearing on Aug. 12. During that time, county officials received comments from 39 people about how the money should be spent.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, officials also discussed the need for upgrades to the county’s benefits package for public-safety employees who retire or leave for other jobs.

County Councilman Orton Bellamy addressed the importance of recruiting and retaining employees in a competitive market that offers workers different opportunities in other locales.

“It’s very imperative that we have these benefits in place as incentives for our workers,” he said. “It’s very expensive when you train an employee and that employee leaves after four or five years.”

Patrick Owens, the county’s human resources director, noted that under the county’s policy in July 1994, public-safety workers could retire at 46 years old with the county continuing to pay for either 50% or 100% of their health premiums based on how many years they had worked. In 2012, the county eliminated those benefits for workers hired after June 30, 2011.

Currently, the county only pays retiree health premiums for those between the ages of 62 and 65. That benefit is either 50% or 100% based on years of service. Anyone retiring before age 62 is not eligible for the benefit.

Committee Chairman Johnny Vaught suggested discussing the issue more at the County Council’s fall budget retreat scheduled later this year. “I think it’s something we’ve got to address and deal with,” he said.

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