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County commissioners consider more pandemic relief for employees
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The Dawson County Government Center is located at 25 Justice Way in downtown Dawsonville.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues into a third year, Dawson County Fire Chief and EMA Director Danny Thompson encouraged the Board of Commissioners to allocate more funds toward employees who test positive for the virus. 

The BOC held its first work session of 2022 starting Jan. 20 at 4 p.m., with the voting session immediately following. 

In March 2021, the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was signed into law. Then in August, the BOC approved $100,000 in emergency funds received from ARPA for employees presenting the HR Director with positive COVID-19 PCR tests to each have 80 hours of paid sick leave. That way, they wouldn’t have to use their paid time off (PTO) days. 

By December, $33,781 remained for that purpose, and that amount is expected to be exhausted by mid-February. Thompson shared that on average, $20,000 to $23,000 a month has been used from that overall $100,000. And that’s before the spike in cases due to the Omicron variant, he added.

Thompson said that the pandemic has “changed the game” on people coming sick to work, with remote work becoming possible for some but not for others working in departments like Facilities, Parks and Recreation, the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office, Fire and Emergency Services and Public Works. 

“We’re encouraging our employees to be truthful and say, ‘Hey, if you’re sick don't come to work,’ because we don't want to spread it,” Thompson said. “We want to try to minimize our down time because it impacts service delivery at every department, not just my department.”

So far, there’s about $130,000 left of the ARPA funds. The fire chief recommended putting $120,000 aside from that to replenish the initiative. 

Thompson recommended that 80, 84 and 96-hour county employees each receive leave for those same amounts of hours respectively. Though he said approval of more funds could wait until the Feb. 3 meeting, BOC chairman Billy Thurmond reminded him that the county could process an emergency request for the funds if necessary.