Mass. city proposes $3K bonuses for EMS providers
Some of the funds for Chicopee's potential payouts may come from the American Rescue Plan
CHICOPEE, Mass. — City officials hope to reward all municipal employees with a $3,000 bonus for the work they performed over the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bonuses, which are being called retention stipends, are being reviewed by the mayor’s committee that is examining the best uses for federal American Rescue Plan funds. However, the about $2 million that will be needed will not come from the pandemic recovery grant because the plan does not fit the guidelines, said Michael J. Pise, chief of staff for Mayor John L. Vieau.
The federal grant will only fund stipends for front-line workers directly impacted by the pandemic, such as ambulance workers or police officers. Vieau said he wants to recognize the work done by all employees including those who were figuring out how to do payroll from home or providing pickup meals for senior citizens in need at the RiverMills Senior Center.
“I always say our collective success depends on everyone,” Vieau said. “Our group of employees collectively worked together and there was no interruption of services.”
In some cases, employees were told to work from home because the number of people working in city buildings had to be limited to ensure social distancing. Those people should not be penalized for following the requirements, he said.
In other cases employees together set a schedule on a rotating basis so groups of employees would alternate between working at home and in-person, Vieau said.
The proposal is similar to the retention stipends school employees will receive. Many of those bonuses were included in contract negotiations since most unions are settling new pacts with the School Committee now.
Because the bonus money will come from the city’s free cash account, which is money raised in last year’s tax levy and budgeted but not spent, the bonuses will have to be approved by the City Council, Vieau said.
Although the money will not come from the grant funding, the mayor’s advisory committee is still reviewing it because it earlier discussed creating employee pandemic bonuses, he said.
The proposal has not appeared before the City Council yet, but two councilors serve on the mayor’s pandemic committee. In the past few months, several councilors have also spoken in favor of recognizing employees who worked through the pandemic with some type of stipends or bonuses.
Unions, especially those representing Department of Public Works employees, have also appeared before the City Council requesting bonuses. Some of those employees staged a small picket in front of City Hall before the City Council meeting last week.
The proposal calls for all existing employees who worked full-time from March 13, 2020, the day the emergency declaration was imposed in Chicopee, through March 12, 2021, to receive the $3,000 payment. The employees must have been working for the city for more than two years, the proposal said.
Those who meet all other guidelines but have not been working with the city for two years will receive a $2,000 payment.
Full-time employees who did not work for the one-year period but have worked between March 15, 2021, through March 14, 2022, will receive a $1,000 payment.
Part-time employees will receive half the payment their full-time counterparts received, the proposal said.
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