Sunbury leaders are considering possible bonus payments to city workers who helped the city navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 18 months, filling in essential roles for the city’s residents.

The move, to be paid with some of the remaining COVID relief funding, makes a lot of sense. Officials in Danville borough have already approved a similar boost in Montour County.

Tens of thousands of dollars flooded into coffers the past 18 months, helping to pay for everything from rental relief to small business aid to extended unemployment benefits. The funding for municipalities is limited in its scope, but it seems like offering some sort of “hazard” pay to those who stuck it out would be a justifiable expense.

In Danville, officials agreed to use about 10 percent of the borough’s American Rescue Plan Act funding — about $48,600 — to give premium pay to essential borough workers such as police and utility workers. It works about to $1,235 per worker, Borough Manager Shannon Berkey said.

In Sunbury, there is a push to offer $2,000 bonuses to full-time city employees and $1,000 payments to part-time employees. The city, officials have said in public meetings, has about $980,000 to use and bonuses are being considered.

City Administrator Derrick Backer and Mayor Kurt Karlovich want to wait until final guidelines come out. Backer said he has received notice some of the funds can be used for lost revenue and that money could be placed in the general operating budget.

“I want to give the workers some type of bonus money for being an essential worker during that time,” Josh Brosious said.

“Without these amazing workers, the city could not have made it through these tough times. Our workers are our greatest assets and this is a small token of appreciation.”

Statewide, $6.15 billion has been allocated to Pennsylvania counties, cities, and local government units to support COVID-19 response efforts, replace lost revenue, support economic stabilization for households and businesses, and address systemic public health and economic challenges.

According to the Department of Community and Economic Development, money can be used to support public health expenditures, address negative economic impacts caused by COVID, replace lost public sector revenue, invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure and provide premium pay for essential workers. DCED says municipalities can “offer additional support to those who have and will bear the greatest health risks because of their service in critical infrastructure sectors.”

At a time when employers are struggling to fill gaps, offering a boost to those who pushed through it is money well spent.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.

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