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Hazard pay approved for San Diego County essential workers

Posted at 4:47 PM, Jun 09, 2021

SAN DIEGO (KGTV)- After an hours-long meeting Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved a plan on how to spend nearly $650 million in American Rescue Plan funding in San Diego County.

About half of the money will cover costs related to the pandemic and COVID-19 response, including future expenses.

The rest will be spread out through different programs and services to help those facing homelessness, help small businesses and non-profits, mental health services for the youth, and much more.
About $36 million will go toward hazard pay to the county’s essential employees who worked throughout the pandemic.

“These workers still had to continue to go in, workers in hospital settings, medical workers who worked in the jails, medical workers who worked in psych hospitals. Social workers that had to make house visits” said David Garcias, the president of SEIU Local 221, the union representing county workers.

He said many risked their lives working in person during the pandemic. They rallied virtually last year, calling for extra Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as well as hazard pay.

During public comment at the board meeting, a county adult protective services specialist spoke of the risks coworkers endured during home visits, not knowing if the people they came in contact with were positive for COVID-19.

“We weren’t compensated with the extra risks for the stress; we know there have been tragic outcomes for some, including among our county workers,” said the caller. “I think we should have been paid at the time; now there’s an opportunity to make us whole.”

But there was a bit of pushback on the item. Supervisor Joel Anderson said, “I just can’t in good conscience give covid bonuses to those who never missed a paycheck, have a guaranteed outcome with retirement, and have the best health care. However, I feel our employees work awfully hard, and they’re just wonderful people, and this is no reflection on how I feel about this.”

In the end, the funding received four votes. We’re told discussions are still underway about how and when the county will allocate the money.

“Those folks that stayed there and did the job, we need to honor them for all the hard work they did to make sure people were taken care of,” said Garcias.