McHenry County Board approves one-time bonus for health department employees

Bonuses will be paid for using federal COVID-19 recovery dollars

McHenry County Department of Health employees will be getting a one-time bonus using to funds allocated for county use by the federal American Rescue Plan.

The McHenry County Board unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday evening that will distribute $249,072 – part of the $59.7 million McHenry County received as part of the federal relief package approved by Congress in March – to health department employees in recognition of what the board says were extra sacrifices many made dealing with additional responsibilities to find the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Employees have been working under extremely stressful conditions for over 14 months to assure that disease surveillance, case investigation and contact tracing, complaint investigations, vaccine distribution and mass vaccination efforts were accomplished,” according to the resolution .

Many of the health department’s roughly 100 employees took on additional duties related to COVID-19 beyond their normal responsibilities, resulting in extra work and overtime.

The McHenry County health department has seen their workers get pushed beyond their limits during the pandemic. In January, the department logged 1,433 hours of overtime for 12 employees in the nursing division. In March, the department was able to secure a $790,000 grant from the state to help with vaccine distribution, which includes the ability to hire more employees.

“We still have staff who routinely work extended hours to meet the ongoing demands of this prolonged response to the novel virus, as well as completing their regular job duties,” Public Health Administrator Melissa Adamson said. “Even though we are still planning and responding to the pandemic, I am extremely grateful that the staffs’ hard work and commitment to McHenry County is being recognized.”

Of the $1.9 trillion distributed by the American Rescue Plan, about $350 billion was allocated by Congress to state and local governments.

The funds are meant to encourage investment and economic growth after COVID-19 revenue losses blew holes in government budgets. How governments spend the money is largely up to them. The U.S. Treasury Department is has released interim guidance on how to spend the money and could finalize spending rules later this summer.

Rules under the American Rescue Plan from Congress allow funds to be paid to local government employees. The bonus does not divert funds away from other areas of local government. The county is required to appropriate the funds by the end of 2024 and spend them by the end of 2026.