Local governments offering vaccination incentives, bonuses
By JOHN RECH
The West Memphis city government joined Crittenden County government in offering employee incentives for COVID-19 vaccinations. The Quorum Court approved and incentive and a a one-time special bonus for county employees. West Memphis offered its employees offered a vaccine incentive.
West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon pointed to the fact that suffering COVID-19 and subsequent side effects often takes a long time. The vaccinated McClendon spoke in favor of the incentive to city council.
“Get the shot, get $200,” said McClendon. “Now is a good time to get the vaccine. Employees get about two weeks paid sick time. If it takes longer to get well, what can you do after sick pay runs out.”
Councilman Gheric Bruce asked the mayor to double the allotment of $80,000 for the incentive.
“I’m all for it,” said Mc-Clendon. “It’s just not there. This is what we can do.”
County employees may receive $75 for taking the shot. County Judge Woody Wheeless stumped for the incentive and estimated about 30 percent of county employees got the shots already.
“A lot of companies are offering incentives,” said Wheeless who had been hospitalized with COVID-19. “There is a resistance among many workers, even in the health care industry to get vaccinated.”
The Quorum Court also acted approving a $500 appreciation bonus aimed to retain employees that are serving during the pandemic. Those checks were dispatched to county employees on a recent pay day.
“Is this going to be an annual thing like the Christmas bonus?” asked Justice Ronnie Marconi.
“No this is a one time thing for our employees,” replied Justice Vicki Robertson. “They’ve worked hard, short-handed, and stayed with us in a competitive wage market. This is one way we can show appreciation. We should hold on to raise consideration for next year’s budget.”
Both Wheeless and Mc-Clendon pointed to written limits for using on CARES Act money. Some regulations have not been produced but the county and the city have received the first of two annual distributions under the federal relief program. The county had $4.5 million on hand of the 9 million pledged.
“We don’t know what all we may use the money for yet,” said Wheeless. “But we do know that it must be COVID related and this bonus and incentive is something we can do. It’s been done in other counties already.”
Both the county and city
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payments to vaccinated employees were set for dispersal when the employee produces a completed vaccination card. Those vaccinated before the bonus was approved remained eligible with appropriate documentation. In the city elected officials were included in the incentive. In the county elected official were excluded from the bonus but included in the vaccine incentive.
Wheeless was in a wait and see mode with vaccination mandates under President Joe Biden for employers with over 100 workers.
“I need guidance,” said Wheeless. “They are talking about weekly testing for unvaccinated workers. Who will pay for that, I don’t know. They are talking about huge weekly fines for non-compliance. We will see.”