Flint, MI– Resolutions to give police officers, firefighters, and qualifying essential workers in Flint COVID-19 premium pay using American Rescue Plan Act funds have yet to move forward. 

The administration first recommended premium pay for certain city employees at a council meeting Dec. 8, but the council voted to postpone the resolutions indefinitely. The resolutions came up again before the city council on Jan. 19, but the council lost a quorum before they took any action. 

In March of 2021, the city learned that it would be receiving $94.7 million dollars in COVID-19 relief as part of a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package intended to aid the country in recovering from the pandemic. 

The ARPA money has specific eligible uses that are outlined in a 437-page document. One eligible use is “to respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers.”

According to the administration’s proposal, premium pay would be given to qualifying Flint Police Department sworn officers, Flint Fire Department certified fire suppression personnel, qualifying public safety civilian support personnel, and qualifying American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees. 

Police and fire department employees would receive an additional $5 per hour worked between June 14, 2020, through June 12, 2021, not to exceed the maximum of $10,400. The public safety civilian support personnel would receive an additional $2.50 per hour worked between the same dates, not to exceed $5,200. The qualifying AFSCME personnel would receive an additional $3 per hour worked between those dates, not to exceed $6,240.

A representative from Ernst & Young, the compliance firm the council recently approved for a one-year contract, attended the meeting and answered council’s questions about the proposals. 

“Do you think that it is more advantageous for the city to create a mass budget allocating different funding for ARPA, or to do individual things as they arise?,” Councilwoman Allie Herkenroder asked.

Brian Jarzynski, the executive director of Ernst & Young, said the first step should be to determine the city’s priorities, and then evaluate the best way to fund the priorities, whether that’s through ARPA dollars or other potential sources of funding. 

“I would probably want to step back. It’s really the city and your call in terms of how you do that. … My view is that you would want to go through and put the ideas together first, and evaluate, and prioritize from there,” he said. 

Councilman Quincy Murphy said he would support the resolutions, but felt like the city might be “cherry picking” which workers receive premium pay. 

“Do you guys agree that we have some essential workers that don’t necessarily work for the city of Flint, that equally deserve some funding?” he asked, mentioning those who work in grocery stores, in hospitals, and drive ambulances. 

Chief Financial Officer Robert Widigan said he agreed there were lots of essential workers outside of “the city of Flint compound,” but that they were still reviewing the final rules to determine if they would be able to give premium pay to other company’s employees. 

“Everything’s on the table. We’re working through it,” Widigan said, though he said the biggest issue would be to track the funds and ensure the company is giving the money to their employees, and not just to the CEO, for example.

Councilwoman Tonya Burns said she would like the council to be given more information about the departments, and have the opportunity to hear from department heads about spending the ARPA dollars. 

“We don’t see who’s over economic development. I don’t know if we have anyone over economic development right now,” Burns said. “You know, so when we talk about, ‘how do we spend our ARPA funds?’ we don’t have direct communication about what’s going on in these departments.”

The council meeting lost a quorum before a vote was taken on these resolutions. Council recently voted to hold four of their own community meetings, but dates haven’t been selected yet. Residents interested in giving input on how the ARPA funds should be spent can fill out this online survey.

Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...