Fayetteville approves pandemic bonuses for city employees

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Fayetteville employees will receive a bonus check for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

City Council members on Tuesday voted 7-0 to approve a one-time award for the city’s 792 employees as part of a proposal from Mayor Lioneld Jordan.

Uniformed police officers and firefighters will receive $2,000 after taxes, while other full-time workers will get $1,500 and part-time staff will receive $750. Only current employees who worked from Nov. 1, 2020 through Nov. 28, 2021 will get the full amounts. Those who didn’t work through that full period will receive prorated payments.

Paul Becker, Fayetteville’s chief financial officer, said the $1.8 million needed for the bonuses will come from the $17.9 million the city received from the American Rescue Plan Act, which provided municipalities with funds to help them recover from the pandemic.

Becker said a provision in the measure allows for employee premium pay, but it includes a host of complicated restrictions. Still, most cities in the region are using the provision despite those challenges.

“I assume they’ve all found a way to work it out, but it’s very difficult and very cumbersome,” said Becker.

So Fayetteville will take an alternative approach.

A simpler plan, Becker said, is for the city to pay bonuses to employees now and then reimburse itself using American Rescue Plan money because planned bonuses were postponed in 2020 after the pandemic hit. Those deferred bonuses, he said, were essentially losses, which are eligible for reimbursement using the federal money.

Missy Cole, the city’s human resources director, said the individual bonus amounts were determined after looking at what neighboring cities recently gave their employees as premium pay for work during the pandemic.

Springdale in October allocated $675,000 to its police and fire workers, with $1,000 payments for full-time employees and $500 for part-time employees. That same month, Bentonville gave its full-time employees $2,000 and part-time employees $1,000.

Rogers in November gave police officers $3,000, while firefighters got $1,000. The city previously budgeted $2,000 for firefighters, Cole said. Other full-time employees in Rogers received $1,500, and part-time workers got $750.

Fayetteville administrators also looked to Little Rock to see what a larger city did for its employees. Little Rock in August gave $1,500 to its full-time workers, while part-time employees received $750.

Becker said the city’s accounts collectively lost about $2 million in revenue in 2020, which aligns with the amount the city will pay out in the bonus payments.

Before Tuesday’s vote, Jordan said as the mayor of a city, you can only be as successful as your staff makes you.

“We have a tremendous staff that has worked very hard during the pandemic,” he said. “This is but a small way to show how much we appreciate their hard work.”

Employee service appreciation pay – Cost by fund

Fund# of EmployeesCost
2180-Community Development10$13,000
2250-Parks Development33$63,000
5400-Water and Sewer96$197,000
5500-Recycling and Trash Collection68$144,000