A resolution aimed at guaranteeing hazard pay to city employees working outside their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic was voted down by Fort Wayne City Council on May 26.
The resolution, which could have granted some employees as much as $2.50 per hour in retroactive pay for hours worked back to March 18, as well as additional weekly hazard pay for the duration of the policy, was tabled May 12 due to concerns from several council members. It was ultimately voted down 5-4 along party lines despite several amendments being accepted during the meeting.
All five Republican councilmen — Russ Jehl, R-2nd; Tom Didier, R-3rd; Tom Freistroffer, R-at large; Jason Arp, R-4th; and Paul Ensley, R-1st — voted against the measure. Democrats Geoff Paddock, D-5th; Glynn Hines, D-at large; and Sharon Tucker, D-6th, voted in favor, as did Councilwoman Michelle Chambers, D-at large, who introduced the resolution May 12.
Had the resolution passed, issuance of the hazard pay would have been contingent on three stipulations added during the May 26 meeting. The amendments would have required that the city receive state or federal reimbursement for additional pay, and that a member of Mayor Tom Henry’s administration provide a report on the status of hazard pay funds related to COVID-19 related reimbursement. The resolution also would have required implementation of an easily accessible COVID-19 testing site available to city employees who believe they may have been exposed to the virus.
Although Fort Wayne has received roughly $8.7 million through the CARES Act for COVID-19 relief, any hazard pay from that fund is restricted to employees directly responding to the crisis. As it was written, hazard pay granted by the resolution would not have applied to public safety workers.
Council members had concerns about who would be eligible for hazard pay. Didier was especially skeptical of granting additional pay amid the uncertainty of Fort Wayne’s financial situation as it attempts to recover from the pandemic.
“My difficulty is, with the financial strains of what’s going to happen with the budgeting coming up in the fall most likely, and with the amount of tax revenues that we have coming in, it could be unprecedented times,” Didier said.