Nueces County employees will get extra pay for their service during the pandemic — with the greatest bumps going to law enforcement — thanks to federal coronavirus relief funds.
Nueces County was allocated almost $70.4 million from the American Rescue Plan Act and has received half of that amount. The second half will be released in 2022.
On Tuesday, the county commissioners’ court approved 20% hazard pay raises for workers who are part of the collective bargaining agreement of the Nueces County Sheriff’s Officers Association, as well as cadet correctional officers.
The raises, which total about $2.8 million, will start Oct. 1 and will last through the fiscal year.
Those workers will also get 20% retroactive raises, but cadet correctional officers will only get those raises if they’re current employees. New hires will not get the retroactive raises.
The cost of those raises is unclear because county staff has to determine the earliest date at which the relief funds could cover the county’s spending. County Judge Barbara Canales said expenses incurred as early as March 2020 may be eligible.
The county will also evaluate whether retroactive hazard pay could be given to the families of deceased officers.
Commissioners also approved the use of relief funds for 10% retroactive raises for most other county employees.
The raises will last nine months in the new fiscal year, likely starting in January. New hires will not be eligible.
Those raises will not apply to the district attorney’s office or certain positions in the county attorney’s office. Federal relief funds will cover 10% raises for the district attorney’s office and wages for the county attorney’s office roles, and commissioners agreed to that funding when they adopted the 2021-22 budget last week.
Elected officials are also excluded.
Precinct 4 commissioner Brent Chesney and Precinct 3 commissioner John Marez were in favor of giving raises at levels based on whether employees performed essential work or had a higher risk of COVID-19 exposure.
“I think it’s important to say: Look, for the people who got to stay at home and not come to work, not ever put themselves in harm’s way, that’s an advantage that they got,” Chesney said. “Therefore, there should be a distinction for those who were in harm’s way and for those who weren’t.”
Canales argued that the raises should be 10% across the board because all employees were essential to the county’s operations during the pandemic. But she agreed that commissioners and staff can evaluate whether certain departments can get slightly higher raises.
She suggested a January start date for the raises to allow time to consider pay categories and to ensure that the county follows American Rescue Plan Act rules for premium pay.
Chesney abstained from voting on the 10% raises for county employees, saying he supported raises but believed “there should have been more categorization before we went forward.”
Vicky Camarillo covers Nueces County government and enterprise topics in Nueces County and Texas. See our subscription options and special offers at Caller.com/subscribe.