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Palm Bay Jumps Into The “Let’s Give Bonuses To Workers” End Of The Pool.

According to the agenda to tonight’s Palm Bay City Council meeting, the City is looking to jump into the pool to give bonuses to those employees who get vaccinated for COVID.

COVID-19 Voluntary Vaccination Incentive
According to 31 CFR Part 35, Eligible Uses (b)(1)(xiii) and (xiv), and further supported by section 2.12 of the Interim Final Rule released by the U.S. Department of Treasured [sic] dated June 23, 2021, recipients may use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to offer “incentives reasonable expected to increase the number of people who choose to get vaccinated or motivate people to get vaccinated sooner than they would otherwise.” Staff is requesting Council consideration to provide a monetary incentive in the amount of $300 to City personnel who can provide official proof that they have become fully vaccinated before October 31, 2021. Similarly, for City personnel who are already fully vaccinated, this benefit will be retroactive.

The cover sheet for the item mentions two sections of the law, specifically 31 CFR Part 35, Eligible Uses (b)(1)(xiii) and (xiv):

(xiii) Expenses for quarantining or isolation of individuals;

(xiv) Expenses of providing paid sick and paid family and medical leave to public employees to enable compliance with COVID-19 public health precautions;

Clearly neither of those sections deal with any sort of bonus paid to employees. (To be fair, the City wants to increase paid leave of up to 80 hours for workers who caught, catch, were or have been exposed to COVID. That part of the proposal is in another section of the cover letter and it too references sections (b)(1)(xiii) and (xiv) of the act. Perhaps the writer of the cover letter didn’t actually read the wording of the Act itself and thought it would apply to bonuses.)

Section 2.12 of the Interim Final Rule released by the U.S. Department of Treasury reads:

2.12.May recipients use funds to pay for vaccine incentive programs (e.g., cash or in-kind transfers, lottery programs, or other incentives for individuals who get vaccinated)?Yes.

Under the Interim Final Rule, recipients may use Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency, including expenses related to COVID-19 vaccination programs. See 31 CFR 35.6(b)(1)(i). Programs that provide incentives reasonably expected to increase the number of people who choose to get vaccinated, or that motivate people to get vaccinated sooner than they otherwise would have, are an allowable use of funds so long as such costs are reasonably proportional to the expected public health benefit.

The are definite issues here.

First, the rule has been generally held to be a public benefit and not just for government workers.

Secondly, the wording of the rule declares a funded program will increase the number of people who choose (not chose) to get vaccinated or to “motivate people to get vaccinated sooner than they otherwise would have.” One cannot be vaccinated “sooner” if they have already been vaccinated.

Third, the City would have to demonstrate that the cost of the program is “reasonably proportional to the expected public health benefit.”

The City offers no numbers to support the “expected public benefit.” There is no mention anywhere as to the total number of employees, the number of those employees that have been vaccinated, and the corresponding number of people that have not been vaccinated.

By the very rules the City cites, they cannot go back in time and offer bonuses for those who are presently vaccinated. Furthermore, any such “bonus program” must have a benefit to the public health.

The City offers no proof of that either.

Finally, we wonder what would happen if WalMart, Publix, McDonalds or any other business in the City approached the City and said “we want to offer bonuses to get our employees vaccinated. Under Section 2.12 of the Interim Final Rule, will you pay those bonuses?”

We all know the answer to that one.

We said this before and will say it again: if the City or any government cannot convince its workers as to the benefits of getting vaccinated, either the message is not being presented well, or it doesn’t resonate with the people in the building.

Fix those issues, and save the money for businesses that are struggling because of the pandemic.



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