Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is asking the City Council for $5 million to give bonuses to city employees who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or exempt from vaccination.
Time is running out for the roughly 2,000 municipal workers who as of Sept. 3 either hadn’t gotten their shots or hadn’t been approved for an exemption to meet the requirements of the city’s vaccine mandate. Without it, they could miss out on potential $400 bonuses and face discipline.
The City Council’s finance and governance committee will hear the request Tuesday, because Hancock wants to pull the money for bonuses from the city’s $22.4 million rainy day fund. If it passes committee, it would then need the approval of the full council.
The request posted on the committee agenda doesn’t specify how much the bonuses would be, but Hancock told city staff in an email Friday morning that it would be $400 and could be paid out by Oct. 29 .
“Our city employees have done incredible work under some of the most difficult circumstances over the course of the pandemic,” Hancock said in a statement Friday. “This compliance bonus is another way I wanted to acknowledge their dedication to the health and safety of our residents and our entire city.”
Workers who are holding out have until Wednesday to get at least their first shot if they want to meet the requirements, which say all of the city’s roughly 10,000 employees must be fully vaccinated or approved for an exemption by Sept. 30. People are not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.
City employees that get the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Wednesday could qualify for the bonus and avoid the disciplinary letters that city departments are expected to start sending to non-compliant staffers on Oct. 1.
At least 376 city employees have been approved for vaccine exemptions and as of Sept. 3, another 368 exemptions were under consideration. Those people would also qualify for the bonuses provided they “remain compliant with required exemption accommodations,” according to the Department of Finance.
Councilman Chirs Hinds, who is on the finance and government committee, said he supports the idea of compliance bonuses.
“The only way we are going to be able to fully reopen our homes and business to the public is if we get to herd immunity,” he said. “If this helps with making sure that our folks are vaccinated then that’s great.”
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