Republican officials in Shiawassee County, Michigan, voted to give themselves bonuses using $65,000 in covid-19 federal relief funds. All county employees got a one-time bonus designated as “hazard pay.” The payouts ranged from $1,000 to 25,000, with the average payout being $2,100.
The Blaze reports county board chairman Jeremy Root received $25,000 while second-tier commissioners John Plowman and Brandon Marks got $10,000, and the rest of the commissioners received $5,000 each. The part-time county commissioners are usually paid $10,000 each year with stipends for attending meetings.
The payments were met with mixed reactions. Commissioner Cindy Garber believes she deserved the money stating, “I think I earned it. I worked really hard at this job. I was here in person all through this crazy year.” She also said, “the point of the American Rescue Plan is to put the money back into the economy.”
However, commissioner Marlene Webster said she was “mortified” by the payment and planned to return the money. Webster claimed that when she voted to give bonuses, she thought the payments would only be for employees, not commissioners. She also said that she believed one other commissioner would give her bonus payment to a non-profit.
Webster went on to say, “I want people to know that I think they deserve better governments than this, and we’re going to keep pushing forward and trying to have a more transparent county government. It’s just unacceptable.”
The primarily rural Michigan county has about 68,000 people and is located between Lansing and Flint. Some residents were not pleased with the payouts.
One man said, “they saw some money laying on the table, and they grabbed it.” Another resident said, “there are so many businesses that struggled and closed, my business was close to being gone, we managed through it, but there’s a lot of people I know that could’ve used that money.” The federal stimulus funds were meant to help small businesses and local governments during the pandemic.
Stephan Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties, has said that no other county in the state of Michigan has used the money to pay elected officials and that the association has not issued any instructions to do so. While some may be unhappy with the decision of the commissioners to give themselves bonuses, the payments are legal. Under the American Rescue plan, the money can be used as “premium payments,” which allows for amounts of up to $25,000 per person.