ACC to use Covid-19 stimulus funding to award retention bonuses to 508 employees

Alamance Community College officials plan to use a part of the $18.6 million in federal Covid-19 stimulus funding to award most of its 508 ACC employees a first-ever retention bonus as a show of thanks for their hard work and dedication throughout the 23-monthslong pandemic.

Full-time and part-time employees will receive $1,500, while adjunct instructors will receive $750, ACC human resources director Valerie Fearrington told the trustees’ personnel committee Monday afternoon. Those eligible for the retention bonuses had be employed as of mid-August 2021 and still employed as of February 1, 2022, she said.

The bonuses will not exceed more than $250,000 in federal Covid-19 stimulus funding, ACC president ACC president Dr. Algie Gatewood told the committee. He said it’s his understanding that the expenditure doesn’t require approval by the college’s trustee board. Nor was the board asked during their meeting Tuesday night to vote on the retention bonuses, though several trustees expressed support for the measure.

A total of 239 full-time staff and 269 part-time/adjunct employees are eligible to receive a retention bonus, Gatewood confirmed for The Alamance News in a subsequent interview.

By comparison, ACC had a total of 615 employees as of January 2021 and 577 employees in January 2020, Gatewood told the newspaper this week.

Comparing year-to-year changes in total employment numbers doesn’t give a complete picture of the staffing challenges that ACC has faced since the onset of the pandemic, Gatewood said. ACC had been offering fewer classes as a result of Covid-19, so fewer adjunct faculty were needed, but those numbers are likely to increase in the near future, he told the newspaper.

“We are now offering more classes, and the adjunct numbers will increase,” the college’s president said, adding some of the vacancies that have occurred since the spring of 2020 have been filled.

“Our employees have gone through a tremendous amount,” Gatewood told the trustees’ personnel committee earlier this week. “We are not an exception; community colleges all across this state are continuing to lose people. We wanted to show we understand what employees are going through. We also wanted to show we understand that other companies, other community colleges, are continuing to recruit – so this is truly a retention measure.”
Though it wasn’t originally an allowable use under federal spending guidelines for the Covid-19 stimulus funds, ACC received special approval from the federal Department of Education to use the money for that purpose, Gatewood told the personnel committee Monday afternoon.

ACC has received more than $18.6 million in federal stimulus funding since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020.

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The community college initially received $4.4 million in Covid-19 relief funding in 2020 but spent only $394,298 from the first allotment, mostly to cover the costs for moving instruction online, based on the information provided for ACC’s trustees (see accompanying chart).

ACC subsequently received an additional $14.2 million in federal Covid-19 stimulus funding between late 2020 and the spring of 2021.

The bonuses will be included with paychecks that are scheduled to go out in two weeks, Gatewood said during the earlier discussion with the personnel committee.

See other ACC news coverage from this week’s edition:

ACC to ask commissioners for more money to cover increased costs of projects which were to be financed with bond referendum money:

ACC trustees to consider higher student fees:

And read our editorial comment on these ACC issues: “ACC math”