For staying on the job keeping Cameron County running all through the pandemic, the county is saying thanks to all its full-time employees in the form of lump-sum bonuses the county describes as “premium pay fiscal recovery funds.”

On Aug. 10 county commissioners designated all full-time personnel as “critical infrastructure employees” under the American Rescue Plan Act and approved the payments.

“It would not have been possible without these (ARPA) funds,” said Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr.

When first advised the money was imminent, the county knew the bonuses would be a top priority because employees have been on the front lines and continued to work during the pandemic, risking exposure to COVID-19, illness and death to ensure continuity of county operations, he said.

“Even though our budget is a little tighter than we were hoping, we knew we could address this through this funding,” Trevino said. “We were considering initially spreading it out over this year and next year, but we decided to do it all at once now to assist our employees.”

In keeping with U.S. Department of Treasury guidelines, the county’s lowest paid employees are prioritized. Personnel making up to $40,000 annually will receive $3,500, those making between $40,001 and $59,999 will get $3,000, and employees earning $60,000 and above will receive $2,500 payments. The checks are scheduled to go out within 30 days of Aug. 10.

“In addition to the vaccine that we hope all of our employees have already received, this is a good shot in the arm,” Trevino said. “We need them to continue to keep doing a good job for us and serving the community and serving the county. We appreciate all of their efforts and this is the best way we can show them.”

Cameron County Deputy Clerk in the Filling and Recording Department Connie Meza organizes paper work at the Cameron County Clerk Office Friday afternoon. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

He said the payments are aimed at helping address the immediate needs of county employees, whose health and safety has been jeopardized by the pandemic along with that of family and friends.

“Together we will work through this ongoing public health emergency,” Trevino said. “Thank you to our Cameron County employees for their service.”

As of Aug. 12, the county was reporting a total of 46,342 COVID-19 cases and 1,731 deaths related to the virus since the start of the pandemic.

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