COVINGTON, Ga. — City employees now get an option for how they can be incentivized, if vaccinated.
During a meeting Monday, Feb. 21, the Covington City Council narrowly approved a motion to deploy a program that would provide a stipend up to $500 to city employees who get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Earlier this month, the council approved a sick leave policy that allowed a vaccinated employee to receive additional sick time from the city government to cover the isolation period of five days, as recommended by the CDC. A stipend program was discussed at the time but ultimately dismissed.
On Monday, City Manager Scott Andrews said he polled city employees to see what they thought about the incentive being offered. Results showed approximately 54% of employees would rather receive the $500 stipend over the additional sick leave.
Andrews also said the sick leave program was going to require “more leg work” from staff than a stipend program would. For those reasons, he wanted to allow council members the chance to re-discuss incentives.
Councilman Anthony Henderson appreciated Andrews seeking out the opinion of employees and was glad to revisit the issue.
To “give power to employees,” Henderson motioned to implement the proposed stipend program and allow vaccinated employees to choose their preferred incentive.
Councilwoman Susie Keck voiced her opposition to the stipend and said she had an issue with the potential cost it would be for the city.
When Keck asked if ARPA funds would be used to cover the cost, Andrews said the city’s finance director requested existing personnel monies fund the program.
Councilman Don Floyd echoed previous statements made by Keck, saying he could not agree to paying people to “do the right thing.”
After further discussion, Morgan seconded Henderson’s motion. The item passed 3-2; Keck and Floyd opposed. Councilwoman Fleeta Baggett was absent — on medical leave.
Per the stipend policy, employees would receive $150 per initial dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, and then another $200 for the booster. Employees would receive $200 for the initial dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and then another $300 for the booster.
Currently there are more than 300 city employees. Per Andrews’ estimation a few weeks ago, about 20-30 employees were “on the fence” in regard to receiving the vaccine. He said the staff’s collective vaccination rate was about 50% at the time.
Andrews was adamant in saying the stipend program and sick leave policy were in no way a mandate or a tool to pressure employees to get the vaccine. The policies were only a way to incentivize those who chose to receive the vaccine, he said.