Monday evening Surrisi explained that the COVID pay benefit mandated by the federal government during the pandemic in 2020 required employers with less than 500 employees to provide full pay for up to 80 hours for employees affected by COVID-19. The benefit would cover anyone who was diagnosed with the coronavirus, someone who needed to quarantine because they had been exposed, those affected due to a business closure and even those whose children were out of school and needed adult supervision at home.
Plymouth Clerk Treasurer Jeanine Xaver urged the City Council to not offer the benefit again, spelling out the total cost to the city in 2020 from the benefit. Her report showed 66 employees that had been affected by CODIV Relief, which is when the city offices were closed or working part time to allow for social distancing, COVID sickness and COVID-FMLA which is the third and fourth week an employee was off and received 2/3’s of their pay through FMLA. Over all the Clerk Treasurer said it cost the city $116,238.98.
Xaver presented an opinion from an attorney from New Focus HR who advised not starting a new paid COVID leave in 2021. The clerk said, “There are three employees who have been off with COVID in 2021. Ove of the employees has over 300 hours of sick time banked, plus four weeks of vacation time.” She explained that at a minimum all current city employees have one week of paid sick leave, one week of paid vacation time and three days of paid personal days that they can use anytime they are sick.
Xaver said, “Given that the first day the president was in office, he eliminated 70,000 jobs, I’d say that our city employees should be thankful for having jobs, having a health care plan that pays as well as it does and for the benefit time that is already afforded to them.” She spoke of several local restaurants and businesses that have suffered and or closed because they can’t keep up.
City Councilman Greg Compton asked how the city is dealing with symptomatic employees. He was told they would be sent home and urged to get tested before coming back to work. Compton said he felt offering the benefit again this year was the fair thing to do.
Councilman Robert Listenberger asked about the $320,000 in COVID Cares Act money the city received, and the Clerk Treasurer said the funds were used to pay emergency personnel.
Councilman Randy Longanecker said he was fearful that employees would come to work sick and possibly spread the virus.
Compton motioned to continue the benefit of 80 hours of COVID time for 2021 going back to the first of the year if they hadn’t used all their COVID time in 2020. Councilman Jeff Houin seconded the motion and it was passed by the City Council with a 7-0 vote.