Salisbury City Council approves pandemic bonuses, vaccine incentives

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, September 8, 2021

SALISBURY — The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a pair of proposals that will put some extra cash in the pockets of its employees.

The two programs, a one-time infusion  for employees that will cost city about $1.5 million and some additional vaccine incentives that will cost $210,000, are being paid for with federal money from the American Rescue Plan.

The one-time premium pay infusions apply to full- and part-time employees. The amounts each city employee will receive ranges from $250 to $3,500 depending on how long they have worked for the city and whether their position falls into the “critical” bucket.

People who will receive the most money have worked for the city since at least Oct. 1, 2020, and are in the critical category.

Salisbury Finance Director Wade Furches said the city considers all of its employees essential workers, but staff made a distinction to provide some additional money for people who face the most risk during the pandemic like police, fire, sanitation and transportation staff.

“We have a lot of employees that did not miss a beat during this entire pandemic,” Furches said.

Part-time employees will also receive bonuses up to $1,500 depending on their hours worked.

Furches also presented a plan that would cost about $200,000 less because of smaller bonuses. He noted management positions will receive $2,000 and that is at or below the top level of either plan. The focus of the program is on employees that are “front and center,” Furches said.

Councilman David Post said voting for the program was the easiest “aye” he has made in his six years serving on the council.

The city has almost $6 million of federal relief left.

The vaccine incentives include bonuses to employees based on COVID-19 vaccination status, with more bonuses possible if a larger portion of staff get vaccinated.

The city already offered three additional vacation days for vaccinated employees who meet an Oct. 29 deadline, and it proposed extending that to Dec. 31.

City Human Resources Director Ruth Kennerly said the city has been looking at what other municipalities have been implementing and recommended a $250 bonus for already vaccinated employees and those who get vaccinated. There’s an additional $250 possible if the staff reaches a 60% vaccination rate by the end of the year.

City Manager Lane Bailey said at least 36% of employees are vaccinated based on smaller incentives the city has already offered. He noted some employees only have received a single dose of the two-shot vaccines.

Bailey said a city employee died after contracting COVID-19 and he worries about their health and safety. Bailey also contracted COVID-19 previously.

Post noted the CDC advises reaching at least 70% to achieve herd immunity and proposed adding an additional tier to reach that goal. He made a motion to approve the incentive, but changed the first tier to 65%, and added another $250 bonus for reaching a 75% vaccination rate.

The original recommendation had a cost estimate of $130,000. Post’s motion increased the total to about $210,000 if the city reaches the second goal.

Councilman Brian Miller asked Furches to calculate the difference at the meeting so the board could be aware of the increase.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

email author More by Carl