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McHenry County Board of Health mulling pandemic pay

Health authorities are currently eying the use of American Association of Retired Persons grant dollars to pay for added staffing expenses.

Adamson said the Board of Health previously didn’t have funding from AARP to use and there is a possibility authorities could identify other sources of funding.

A common message shared by the Board of Health was that McHenry County needs to level the playing field to ensure it pays employees what neighboring counties are offering to reduce job turnover.

Board member Joe Clarke suggested that health authorities put the funding to good use aside of issuing “lump-sum payments” to employees.

“I rather see some of these dollars used to increase employees hourly pay here on out to make them more satisfied and committed to McHenry County and to do that based on what the external comparable is,” Clarke said.

Not everyone agreed with Clarke’s proposal with some saying they preferred the idea of pandemic pay in the form of lump-sum payments as raising the hourly pay rates would be more of a long-term solution to a short-term problem.

County Administrator Peter Austin said because an item may not be prioritized as high as another at the moment doesn’t mean the budget won’t allow it later in the process when officials know more about how much they can afford to spend.

“When we hire and how many is dependent, in part, of those funding requests,” Adamson said, referring to the number of permanent positions and how increasing that number could impact the health department’s ability to implement components of the staffing proposal going forward.

The Board of Health expects that the funding source for the staffing proposal requires officials to be nimble enough to consider alternative revenues as they’re identified, officials said.

Board treasurer Kyle Marcussen said he views the staffing proposal as a way to fix a long-term problem that the pandemic helped expose.

“The timing is beneficial in the sense that this pandemic, this mass casualty event has brought light and attention to public health,” Marcussen said.

Board president Cindy Gaffney said she understands Marcussen and Clarke’s views on this topic, but she thinks there is room to find a middle ground with others who might not fully agree.

The staffing proposal will be reviewed again by health authorities in the coming weeks.

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