BOYNTON BEACH — City of Boynton Beach employees — all 800 of them, including part-timers — have been approved to receive $1,000 checks just in time for the holiday season.
City commissioners unanimously agreed on Oct. 5 to give each employee a total of $2,000 in "premium pay" for working during the COVID-19 pandemic. The money will be taken from the $13.6 million the city receives in American Rescue Plan Act funds.
Employees will get an additional $1,000 in their first December paycheck, City Manager Lori LaVerriere said. A second $1,000 is scheduled to go out in May.
The payouts will total around $1.6 million or nearly 12% of the city's ARPA money, but Commissioner Ty Penserga said it shows appreciation for employees working during times of some of the greatest risks of COVID-19 infection.
"This is kind of our way of saying, 'Thank you for doing that. Thank you for still picking up the garbage. Thank you for picking up all those people in ambulances and fire trucks, and (thank you) to police officers," Penserga said. "This is a no-brainer to me."
West Palm Beach commissioners voted in August to provide city employees who had direct contact with the public with bonuses up to $3,800. Those who did not engage face-to-face with the public are not eligible for the bonus money.
Boynton Beach's premium pay program isn't as generous financially as that of West Palm Beach, but it applies to every employee and not just those handling specific functions.
It's the third time in two months that Boynton's commission has approved bestowing ARPA money on its employees or residents.
In September, 148 people received $100 gift cards after they were vaccinated at a city-held event at the Ezell Hester Jr. Community Center. The city set aside $50,000 — enough gift cards for 500 people — but used only a fraction of the budgeted amount.
Later in September, commissioners agreed to $500 bonuses for any city employee who is fully vaccinated by Nov. 15.
Boynton Beach will receive a total of $13,647,904 in ARPA money. The first installment of $6,823,952 was made to the city on May 19 and the same amount will deposited next May.
After accounting for the employee bonuses, LaVerriere said approximately $4 million remains unbudgeted from the $13.6 million. A total of around $5 million will likely be used to cover revenue shortfalls incurred in 2020 and 2021 as a result of the pandemic.
The $1.6 million earmarked by commissioners for premium pay was more expensive than a plan devised by city staff that prioritized bonuses to lower-paid employees and cost around $1.35 million in ARPA money.
The staff plan proposed paying the city's police and firefighters a smaller bonus than other employees, pointing out that first responders recently received a $1,000 check from the state for hazard pay during the pandemic.
Commissioners disagreed with that approach.
"Everybody who worked had to put up with a degree of this, but to this day, [police and firefighters] are running calls where they are meeting people, who have COVID, to take them to the hospital," Commissioner Justin Katz said.
Commissioner Christina Romelus argued the $2,000 bonus should be reserved for employees working directly with the public, including sanitation and utility workers.
"Not to say I don't appreciate our staff that had a chance to work remotely, but this conversation is to thank those individuals who put themselves in harm's way to keep our city running," she said.
Mayor Steven Grant lobbied his commission colleagues to provide the city's lowest-paid employees — those making under $50,000 annually — an extra $250 bonus, but did not garner any support.
The commission did agree with Grant's suggestion that the $2,000 be paid to employees in two parts so that some ARPA money from the first $6.8 million installment remains available for necessary projects.
Residents can have a say on how those federal funds are spent in Boynton Beach during a city-held, in-person-only meeting on Oct. 28 at 6 p.m. inside Fire Station No. 3 at 3501 N. Congress Ave.
Source : https://www.palmbeachpost.com/story/news/local/boynton/2021/10/19/boynton-beach-city-commission-gives-employees-2-000-pandemic-bonus/8504960002/1210