Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed giving all state employees a $1,000 bonus to recognize their work during the coronavirus pandemic. That is a generous gesture, but it seems a bit too much.

We are big fans of bonuses as a reward for good work, but bonuses for everyone turns them into a windfall for some people who did not do anything extraordinary.

While many state employees have shown remarkable devotion to their work, confronting the dangerous COVID-19 virus by continuing public contact, many others have been working from home.

We don’t disparage the problems of working from home, but it is not in the same league as being face-to-face with the public.

And, to be honest, some sectors of the state government, for whatever reason, have not functioned in an exemplary manner during the crisis. Are those workers to be rewarded as well?

The bonuses, which would cost $74.1 million, were announced by the governor Monday to general praise from legislative leaders, so the path to approval of a supplemental appropriation seems to be well-paved.

“This supplemental budget recognizes the hard work of our state employees, who have overcome significant challenges to deliver essential services to Marylanders during this public health emergency,” Hogan said in a prepared statement.

While that is true for some, we would remind the governor and the legislators, it is not true for all.

The governor’s statement added: “I want to especially thank our front-line workers, including police officers, healthcare workers, highway maintenance workers, and all of our dedicated public servants for their exceptional service.”

That is an entirely justifiable argument in the case of those workers who did not have the option of sheltering at home to continue working but had to steel themselves to venture into the world. Health care workers? Absolutely. Police officers? Of course. Highway maintenance workers? Yes, they deserve a bonus, too.

But what about the people who oversaw the planning for the bungled vaccine rollout? Should those responsible for that failure get an extra grand too?

What about the people staffing unemployment offices? As we reported recently, many Marylanders say they are still waiting to hear back from the Department of Labor about unemployment benefits almost a year after the pandemic began. Do those workers and the supervisors who direct them represent “exceptional service?”

Our point in singling out problems in those two agencies is just to remind everyone that not all parts of the government operated seamlessly during the pandemic.

Perhaps some workers in those agencies did do great work this year in the face of many challenges. They may deserve recognition and praise. But bonuses for good work should depend on an assessment of unusual merit in an employee.

We could not argue against a plan to reward all front-line workers not able to work safely from home who showed up in the face of a once-in-a-century challenge.

And we would support singling out employees in every department who performed far beyond expectations, including in health planning and employment services, to get a financial reward as well.

But we are pretty sure that does not include every single state employee. Giving everyone a bonus diminishes the efforts of those who displayed determination and, yes, bravery in delivering meritorious service, and it diminishes the impact of the reward for those who have worked hard to earn it. Let’s focus our recognition on them.

(11) comments


"but bonuses for everyone turns them into a windfall for some people who did not do anything extraordinary." - Sort of like all the Stimulus money who went to MANY who had no financial impact at all.


In what world does a board of newspaper editors get to decide who deserves a bonus and who does not? This is an asinine opinion. It is not even a discussion where your opinion has merit.

To believe that we have the right to decide what others deserve is, I believe, at the heart of all of our worst policies and worst impulses.


For many years State of Maryland employees have been denied cost of living raises and promised increments. Many of them deserve bonuses. The problem with giving raises only to high performers is that most ratings are purely subjective. This is exacerbated by an unfair promotional system which puts unqualified people in positions that rate subordinates. The only fair way to give the bonuses is to give them to all employees.


What percentage is the “best”? The top 50%? The top 25%? How do you compare and measure that across the spectrum of State Workers?


Unless you have individual annual performance reviews, you can't.


How many of those who worked from home did so because their offices were closed due to pandemic precautions? Those who had no choice about whether or not they went to their offices should not be penalized.


Where do I go for my bonus??


"turns them into a windfall for some people who did not do anything extraordinary" - This statement reminds me of all the stimulus money who went to hundreds of thousands of people who had no financial impact from Covid, while those who did are losing their homes and standing in line at food banks.


You haven't fired Tiffany Robinson yet?


In another life, another time, hearing this I remembered guys just a few years out of college getting jobs as real estate appraisers and spending astonishing amounts of time "in the field" hanging around our all-female staffed unrelated office and environs where they knew people. Working for the state looked great. Still does.


It takes time and evenmoney to give performance bonuses. In the interest of speed and stimulating the economy, the Federal government sends out checks to all who qualify by income last year. I suggest that it will be faster and easier to do that in Maryland for its workers.

1 Corinthians 9:9 - For it is written in the Law of Moses: “ Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”

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