Commissioners outline plan for spending $16.2 million in federal funds

Bartholomew County Commissioners are recommending that county employees who continued work in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic be eligible for bonus pay from the American Rescue Plan.

The county is slated to get just over $16.2 million dollars under the plan adopted earlier this year by the federal government. Among the strings required by the feds is that a plan be developed locally on how the money will be spent. Commissioner Tony London explains:

On Monday, county commissioners, working with county auditor Pia O’Connor came up with their plan that will go to the County Council for consideration.

The largest allocation under the plan is $4 million dollars for rural broadband improvements. O’Connor pointed out that those improvements are one of a few areas specifically suggested under the law and is meant to patch the weaknesses in the broadband network found during the pandemic, when residents resorted to working and attending school remotely. Other large commitments include $1.5 million to rural fire departments, $1.2 million to the jail heating and cooling system and $1.2 million to township assistance.

But the commissioners also opted to set aside $307 thousand dollars for employees who worked in front line roles through the pandemic. London explained that the employee bonus funds, called “premium pay,” are one of a handful of items laid out specifically in the federal legislation.

The exact parameters of who is qualified to receive the money are still to be worked out. Commissioner President Larry Kleinhenz said that decision should be made by the County Council.

County Councilman Jorge Morales said who would qualify for the pay has been contentious in discussions so far.

County Council meets at 6 p.m. tonight at the Governmental Office Building on Third Street.