A request from Sheriff Brad Lance for deputies and jailers from his office to receive COVID hazard pay was tabled by the Tate County Board of Supervisors at its first meeting of the new year Monday, Jan. 3.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced in December he is authorizing a one-time $1,000 bonus to all sworn law enforcement officers employed by state agencies including the Mississippi Highway Patrol and the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. The payments were classified as COVID-19 hazard pay under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed in 2020.
The estimated 1,750 law enforcement officers work for a variety of agencies, but most are employed by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. Reeves said he hoped cities and counties would follow his lead and provide hazard pay to their law enforcement employees.
“I am asking our Board of Supervisors to follow suit and provide some sort of hazard pay for our deputies and jail officers that worked throughout the pandemic after Mississippi was placed under a State of Emergency,” Lance explained.
Lance did not recommend a level of monetary compensation for certified members of the Tate County Sheriff’s Office and left it to the discretion of Supervisors. Lance did say he would not be included in the one-time benefit pay.
“If you wish to do this, I am sure they (deputies and jailers) would certainly be appreciative of whatever is provided to them,” Lance told Supervisors.
Several Mississippi counties, including Hinds, have already approved premium pay for sheriff's deputies and corrections officers using federal COVID-19 relief funds.
“I personally agree we should reward our employees that had to work if we can,” said Tony Sandridge, President of the Tate County Board of Supervisors. “I have been in talks with our county administrator about possibly doing this for our people.”
County Administrator Cole Massie said representatives from the Mississippi state auditor’s office have set up a conference with board attorneys and other county officials later this month to discuss the specifics of hazard pay.
“Basically, there are two different pools of money, and we want to be sure we are pulling from the right one,” Massie explained. “This conference will provide us information on how to structure payments and where we need to go from there.”
Massie said some counties researched providing hazard pay for other essential workers and suggested Tate County do the same.
“If we are going to do it for one department, I would ask we consider other employees who qualify as well,” Massie said. “I know our solid waste staff have shown up every day for work. That’s another group I would definitely classify as essential.”
Board attorney John Lamar recommended, and Supervisors agreed to table the sheriff’s request until all legalities and details are ironed out by the state auditor’s office.