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Nebraska county uses federal virus aid money to give bonuses

October 31, 2021 GMT

BRIDGEPORT, Neb. (AP) — One small western Nebraska county is using roughly half the federal coronavirus aid money it is set to receive for bonuses of up to $10,000 each for county employees.

Morrill County officials approved the bonuses in August as hazard pay for the county’s roughly 50 employees, according to the Omaha World-Herald. The county is set to receive about $900,000 from the federal program.

Most of the state’s 92 other counties are still deciding how to spend the roughly $376 million they will share from the American Rescue Plan Act, but the Morrill County Attorney and officials with the Nebraska Association of County Officials say using the money for premium pay is allowed.

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Jon Cannon, the executive director of the counties group, said he’s telling officials not to rush to spend the money because they have until the end of 2024 to decide what to use it for.

Morrill County officials say the bonuses were warranted because of the work employees did throughout the pandemic, which included keeping the courthouse in Bridgeport open the entire time.

“There were a lot of things you couldn’t use it for,” said Jeff Metz of Angora, the chairman of the three-member Morrill County Board. “We ran across that one of the allowable expenses was hazard pay. We felt that fit with what we were trying to do.”

“It sent a nice message to the employees,” Metz added.