Siler City commissioners unanimously pass COVID vaccine incentive pay

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SILER CITY — The town’s board of commissioners unanimously passed a motion Monday evening to create a COVID-19 vaccine incentive program as part of an effort to prevent excessive coronavirus-related absences.

Town staff — including Town Manager Roy Lynch and Human Resources Director Nancy Darden — brought the proposal to the board of commissioners on Monday. According to Darden, just over 40% of Siler City’s employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The town plans to use almost $88,000 worth of funds from the American Rescue Plan to pay fully vaccinated employees a one-time bonus.

Darden said the incentive idea came from other municipalities implementing similar programs and them seeing a jump in staff vaccination rates. Some with vaccination rates of between 35% and 40% implemented bonus plans and saw rates quickly jump to 80%.

“Throughout this pandemic, different municipalities have come up with varied plans in order to get their staff vaccinated so they don’t see the cases of people being sent home on a regular basis,” she said.

Employees would have until April 1 to receive either one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. All full-time and part-time employees would be eligible for the incentive program; full-time employees would receive $1,000 for being fully vaccinated, and part-time employees would receive $250.

“The way that it works is they present their vaccination card to HR and then they are paid the determined amount on the following paycheck,” Darden said.

One of the main motivations for having a vaccine incentive program is to help prevent unnecessary COVID-19 related absences. According to Darden, there have been 37 COVID-related absences among both the 79 full-time employees and the 13 part-time staff. Some departments have had to shut down operations temporarily to contain outbreaks.

“The sole purpose of this is to get our staff vaccinated so we are not dealing with these absences on a day-to-day basis,” Darden said. “This is intended to be a one-time incentive. This is not meant to be a repeated thing.”

Commissioner Lewis Fadely said he supported incentivizing the COVID vaccine, especially since it would prevent numerous absences from town departments. He also said he would also like to see a way to incentivize employees to receive their booster shots once they qualify.

“I don’t want people getting sick, I don’t want people dying and I don’t want people missing work if they do not have to,” Fadely said. “We don’t want to be in this situation next year. I think that not only do we need to incentivize new employees to get vaccinated if they had not done it, we also need to incentivize employees to stay up to speed on their boosters.”

The town also passed a policy extending both Federal and Town Emergency Paid Sick Leave to employees who did not use all 160 hours given to them before June 30, 2021.

If COVID absences continue to be an issue, Darden said the town may need to consider a harsher COVID-19 policy.

“If we have to do something outside of this one-time incentive, we would have to do a policy, I would think,” Darden said. “Hopefully, it does not get to that point.”

Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at theeden@chathamnr.com.

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