COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Columbus city employees who worked on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic will be getting compensated with time off.
Columbus City Council passed a Pandemic Hazardous Duty Time Off Resolution at Tuesday night’s meeting granting up to 40 hours of time off.
“They’ll receive up to 40 hours of time off in lieu of payment for their exemplary service related to those first hand responders during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Deputy City Manager Pam Hodge.
Eligible employees include those in Public Safety Departments: Columbus Fire and EMS, Muscogee County Coroner’s Office, Muscogee County Marshal’s Office, Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office, Columbus Police Department, and the Muscogee County Prison. Employees who meet the criteria in the General Government Departments include METRA, the Civic Center, Parks and Recreation, and Public Works.
Hodge said employees who had ongoing contact with citizens between March 14 and May 17 are eligible for 24 hours time off.
Employees including METRA bus drivers and those responding to 911 calls are eligible for an additional 16 hours. Approval from the employee’s department head or elected official is required.
“This is really a first time to provide this type of hazard duty time off to reward those employees. It’s not something that’s taken lightly and not something done frequently or often if at all," Hodge explained.
Mayor Skip Henderson said they spoke with public safety chiefs, department heads, and employees who worked on the front lines before presenting this to council.
“It became clear during those discussions that because of taxes and other items that are pulled out of bonuses for short-term pay that time off had held the greatest value for them. It is by far, in our opinion, the best way for us to show our employees just how much we appreciate the work that they did," Henderson said.
“The value of that time off they felt was more beneficial than a monetary supplement that could be provided to them and of course with the current situation of the budget, and the revenue, and the unknown, this was a really good option," Hodge said.
Hodge estimates the value of 24 hours off is $545.28 per employee and $908.80 for 40 hours per employee. The time cannot be converted to cash. Hodge said they plan to have the time available in mid-June and employees have 12 months to use it.
“If there is a need to extend that time, that will be at the discretion of the city manager and the director of public safety," Hodge said.
Hodge estimates about 1,200, or one-third, of city employees are eligible for the hazard time off.
Employees not eligible include department heads, elected officials, and employees able to perform their job duties from home. Public safety personnel who were able to have social distancing with citizens are also not eligible for a time-off certificate.
City council held its meeting at the Columbus Civic Center Tuesday night because there is more space to spread out there. Their meetings are usually held at the City Service Center.