EATON CO, Mich. (WLNS) – Millions of federal dollars are heading to Eaton County employees and will be doled out as bonuses. Some of that money is headed to the sheriff’s department for qualifying deputies.

The money comes months after Sheriff Tom Reich notified county leaders of struggles he’s facing keeping deputies on the road.

Eaton County Chairman Jeremy Whittum said the move came after talks with the union representing sheriff’s deputies reached a gridlock this month.

Now, a recently extended retention and recruitment plan aims to give eligible county employees bonuses of $2,500 for the next two years.

“Commissioners are exempt, the drain commissioner and the clerk is exempt so it will be for the men and woman who keep our county running,” said Whittum.

Whittum said nearly 2.3 million federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan will go towards bonuses around the county, including deputies.

Back in August, Sheriff Tom Reich requested $10,000 bonuses for deputies and correction officers over the course of two years. Commissioners voted to reopen contract negotiations with the deputies’ union instead.

READ MORE: Eaton Co. to renegotiate sheriff’s deputies contracts

Reich declined an interview, saying he had little information about the new bonuses. But he says he is frustrated over the length of time it took for an action like this.

Whittum said he understands the frustration and commends Reich for his work in supporting his deputies.

While the competition for new hires is high in law enforcement, Whittum says the county will need to make changes to stay competitive.

“The next board of commissioners in order to keep and recruit talent is going to have to make
Financial decisions. Whether we pay people the salaries which a competitive private sector or public sector would make,” Whittum said.

A union representative with the Police Officers Association of Michigan, (POAM) which represents the deputies, said the support is appreciated but he would have rather seen bonuses paid based on jobs that had a higher risk during the pandemic.

“Folks I representing were out in the front lines of COVID. Going in to work, getting exposed, potentially bringing the new COVID-19 virus through the pandemic to their families,” said Gregg Allgeier, a Business Agent with POAM.

The union representative says the new plans also failed to address other things like pension plans which he said are a valuable tool in recruiting young officers.

County officials say the bonuses are expected to first roll out in March.