State law enforcement officers — about 1,750 in various state agencies — are slated to receive a $1,000 bonus before the end of the year for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Tate Reeves announced.
The cost of the bonus, about $2.3 million, will be paid through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that was passed on a bipartisan basis during the Trump administration to provide funds to the states to help battle the pandemic.
At the time, Reeves argued that he should have discretion to spend the entire $1.25 billion the state received from the CARES Act. But the Legislature blocked Reeves’ effort and spent the bulk of the funds. The Legislature provided the governor discretion in how to spend $50 million of the funds.
Reeves said Monday he had about $5 million left in the discretionary funds that he must dish out by the end of the year. He did not give details of how all of the remaining funds will be spent, though he did say that $688,000 would be allocated to the Department of Child Protective Services to help with the expenses they incurred trying to ensure safety of their staff and the foster children they oversee during the pandemic.
Reeves said he wanted to provide the bonuses or hazard pay to the officers because “day in and day out they put their lives on the line to keep us safe.”
He said they have not had the option to work from home during the pandemic.
About half of the sworn law enforcement personnel who will receive the bonuses are in the Department of Public Safety. The others are in a litany of state agencies, ranging from the Department of Revenue, Department of Agriculture and Commerce, and Insurance.
Sean Tindell, the commissioner of public safety, attended the Reeves news conference and said about 50 law enforcement officers — at both the state and local levels — have died of the coronavirus. The bonuses were allocated only for state officers.
“We just buckled down and did the job no matter what. Sometimes that entails wearing masks. We were in and out of that,” said Trooper Craig James who spoke at the news conference.
James said it was “humbling” that the governor would provide the funds “at this time of the year.”
Earlier this year, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn urged Reeves to call a special session to allow the Legislature to appropriate funds from another pot of federal money — the American Rescue Plan Act — to provide bonuses for health care workers who were overwhelmed during a COVID-19 surge in the late summer.
Reeves did not call a special session. On Monday, the governor praised health care workers, but did not make any comment on whether he would support such bonuses. He said the theme of the Christmas decorations at the Governor’s Mansion in 2020 was to honor “health care heroes.”
“We had a lot of health care heroes. No doubt about it,” the governor said.