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Charlottesville and Albemarle dish out bonuses up to $1,250 for work during pandemic

Charlottesville employees will receive a bonus for working during the pandemic, mirroring a similar benefit given to Albemarle County staff in the summer.

City employees were notified on Monday that they would receive between $250 and $1,250 based on a variety of factors. The money was deposited on Wednesday.

Albemarle’s “Pandemic Risk Recognition” program went to about 50% of county government employees in the July payroll.

The city pay bump will cost more than $811,000, while the county’s bonuses cost $467,000. The county found the money in savings from last fiscal year’s general fund, while the city paid for roughly half the increases with CARES Act funding and used the general fund for the rest.

To be eligible in Albemarle, an employee must have been non-exempt, worked during the county’s restricted building use period — which was March 16 through May 15 — and an active employee in July.

The employee also had to be part of one of two groups — working in an uncontrolled risk environment or a controlled risk environment. An uncontrolled risk environment would be typically offsite and off the premises of County Office Buildings, while a controlled risk environment would be where an employee was required to engage with staff or the public, or may have required the employee to be physically present at a worksite for approximately 60% of their scheduled work time.

Those working in an uncontrolled risk environment received $1,250 in gross pay, while those in a controlled risk environment received $750 in gross pay.

A total of $467,201 was spent on the program, and, according to county staff, the money came from cost savings in the general fund from fiscal year 2020, which ended June 30.

The city’s eligibility requirements for what it called “Special Recognition Pay” were mostly the same. Employees must have worked between March 16 through May 22 and have been an active employee on Wednesday. Employees who could not work or telework during the time frame were not eligible.

In the city, sworn public safety officers in the fire and police departments and Sheriff’s Office were paid $1,250.

Administrative staff in the Sheriff’s Office and fire and police departments received $750.

Staff in regular budgeted positions as 40-hour employees, 30- to 39-hour employees and long-term temporary workers who work at least 30 hours also received $750.

Long-term temporary employees working less than 30 hours and other seasonal or temporary staff received $250.

Deputy City Manager Letitia Shelton said Tuesday that the pay levels were selected to mirror the county’s program.

The bonus will cost $811,327. Of that, about $400,000 comes from the city’s allocation through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act stimulus package. The remaining $411,327 comes from various parts of the general fund.

The allocations are one-time benefits and are not hazard pay. Hazard pay is usually granted to emergency responders who are working during natural disasters or other events that physically prevent most from getting to work. The city and county are not providing that for their emergency responders.

Some city and county officials were concerned for the employees who are left out of the programs.

In a late July email to county staff regarding the program, Assistant County Executive Trevor Henry wrote there are employees not eligible who deserve recognition in a meaningful way.

“I have already expressed my encouragement to department heads to utilize the county’s ‘Employee Recognition Program,’ in such instances,” he said.

A Western Albemarle Rescue Squad member reached out to the Board of Supervisors in August with his concern about volunteer fire and EMS personnel not receiving additional pandemic pay, and suggested that the personal property tax relief volunteers receive be increased.

“The volunteers haven’t received any form of increased compensation, I cannot recall even BOS or ACFR public recognition for volunteer services rendered!,” Bob Coleman said in an email. “ … Again the ACFR volunteers are intentionally cast aside and not recognized for their service!”

County Spokesperson Emily Kilroy said because volunteers are not employees they cannot receive the additional pay.

“[The Incident Management Team] continues to work through how we can support the volunteer stations, but what that looks like is still unknown,” she said.

During a special meeting Tuesday, the council discussed its next round of CARES Act funding, which would provide extra pay to the fire and police departments, Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Social Services.

The amount discussed was $381,876, which Mayor Nikuyah Walker was concerned about because it was a decrease from the $400,000 set aside for employee support in the first round.

“If we’re talking about employees working from March until now and there’s something more that we can do … then we need to max that to show appreciation,” she said.

Shelton said the issue is that CARES Act funding can only go to a very narrow set of employee support with a focus on frontline workers.

Walker said the Department of Human Services is also conducting in-person work and should be considered as well. Councilor Heather Hill said the city will make sure it is supporting as many frontline workers as possible.

“There’s interest that as we’re categorizing employees, we’re being as comprehensive as possible and ensuring that we are giving that additional support to those folks who are out in the field and following those guidelines and that includes human services and DSS,” she said during Tuesday’s meeting. “We just want to make sure we are exploring as broadly as possible the support for those people who are truly out on the front line or working outside of their home on a regular basis.”

The second round of CARES Act funding will come before a public hearing and second reading at the council’s regular meeting on Monday.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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