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Passing $1,000 vaccine bonus for Youngstown workers looks unlikely

City also considering mandatory shots for workers

A vaccination record card is shown during a COVID-19 vaccination drive for Spring Branch Independent School District education workers ....AP photo

YOUNGSTOWN — Mandating COVID-19 vaccination for city employees is one plan the administration is studying while a proposal to pay $1,000 bonuses for getting the shot still can’t get a vote by city council.

As the administration considers ways to require city workers to be inoculated or face penalties, council will again postpone a vote on the proposal to give $1,000 bonuses to employees for getting the vaccination.

After a 30-minute discussion at a Monday council finance committee meeting, it was decided not to bring the bonus ordinance to a vote Wednesday by the full legislative body — because it doesn’t have support from a majority of its members. The proposal will receive a second reading at that meeting with a final vote on accepting, rejecting or withdrawing it at council’s Oct. 6 meeting.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, who opposes the $1,000 payments, imposed a mask mandate Aug. 24 for those inside city buildings though that doesn’t include the city-owned Covelli Centre.

But Brown said city officials are looking at what other cities in Ohio are doing, particularly Columbus, where Mayor Andrew Ginther signed an executive order Friday declaring a state of emergency and requiring masks be worn in all indoor spaces accessible to the public; and Dayton, which was the first major city in the state to make mask wearing mandatory at city buildings.

“We’re looking at our authority on what we will do with the unvaccinated on enforcement,” Brown said.

Finance Director Kyle Miasek added: “We’re waiting to see what some of our sister cities are doing.”

Youngstown could go to a vaccination mandate for its nearly 700 city employees and if workers refuse to get inoculated, they could be required to pay to have weekly or biweekly COVID-19 screening tests, Brown said.

Another possibility is charging unvaccinated city workers extra for their health insurance premiums, he said.

The city spent about $300,000 between February and April on medical costs related to treating employees, their spouses and dependents for COVID-19, Councilwoman Lauren McNally, D-5th Ward, said.

It isn’t known what the amount is since then, but it’s likely higher as the number of COVID-19 cases has seen a significant increase since late July.

“Health care costs are going up and up because of COVID expenses,” McNally said.

She added: “The point is we need to be proactive and we need to be aggressive because it’s costing us a fortune in not just health care, but overtime” to employees who have to cover for others who have the virus.

BONUS PROPOSAL

But it doesn’t look promising for the proposal to give $1,000 to city employees who have or were going to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

Council members Basia Adamczak, D-7th Ward, and Mike Ray, D-4th Ward, repeated Monday their opposition to the proposal saying it’s not a good way to spend money.

The legislation currently has support from only three of the seven members of council with McNally and Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward, also not backing it.

It was given a first reading at council’s Aug. 25 meeting and will get a second reading Wednesday. The third and final reading is scheduled for Oct. 6 with it highly unlikely to be approved then.

If it is approved, the ordinance could cost the city $700,000 and give $1,000 bonuses to city workers who were vaccinated several months ago.

The city administration plans next month to provide a few recommendations for how to spend a portion of the $82,775,370 it was awarded from the federal American Rescue Plan to help offset COVID-19-related costs, Miasek said.

It will be some “simple recommendations,” he said, such as potentially paying the medical costs the city has spent for COVID-19.

“If we don’t do something super-aggressive beyond mask mandates that (ARP) money could be eaten away by COVID,” McNally said.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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