BLUE RIDGE, Ga – Commissioners decided to indefinitely table CARES Act hazard pay until receiving more information from the state.
With several unanswered questions about eligibility and everchanging guidelines from the state, the board decided to hold on accepting COVID-19 hazard pay. The item can be brought up again by the new administration in January 2021 or if new information becomes available. There’s no deadline by which to spend the money.
Several other counties have begun accepting hazard funds, but no one appears to follow a standard aside from frontline public safety employees qualify. However, the guidelines continually change the meaning of public safety employees. As of September 8, the sheriff department, firefighters, 911, and EMS/EMA were listed as approved to receive hazard funds.
Volunteer firefighters could receive $10 per call, but that isn’t a finalized plan, just a proposal.
“What’s legal for us to pay?” asked Post One Earl Johnson.
County Attorney Lynn Doss confirmed that anyone under the EMS/EMA umbrella should qualify for hazard pay.
“I’m not going to make the final say on who gets what when they don’t work for me every day. I would like to feel very comfortable with recommendations from [department heads],” added Johnson.
No one wanted to release funds to employees that wouldn’t ultimately be reimbursable through the CARES Act.
Fannin County received notification in June about CARES Act funding, but it didn’t trickle down to smaller municipalities until later. Initially, they believed the CARES Act funds needed to be spent by September 1, but hazard pay didn’t fall under that deadline.
If local communities don’t follow the state’s guidelines, it is possible for the state to revoke those CARES Act funds.
County Attorney Doss will ask around the state to see the consensus about spending CARES Act hazard pay funds.
Post Two Glenn Patterson made a motion to table the issue until further clarification or knowledge of the deadline. Chairman Stan Helton seconded, and it was unanimously approved.