After delays and changes, City Council tentatively approves $400 bonuses for vaccinated city workers

The change means vaccinated employees will get the bonus before those who got qualified exemptions.
2 min. read
Yvonne Gutierrez gets the first round of a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Denver Indian Center, part of the second wave of prioritized shots in the city. Jan. 8, 2020.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

After making a change ensuring vaccinated employees are given priority, a Denver City Council committee on Tuesday voted 4-2 to forward a measure to use $5 million from the city's contingency fund to give city workers who complied with the vaccine mandate a $400 bonus.

The measure still needs to be passed by the full City Council before the one-time bonuses can be issued.

City workers had until Sept. 30 to submit proof of vaccination or get an approved exemption. As of last Friday, city figures showed 98.7 percent of city workers (more than 10,000 employees) had complied with the mandate. At least 778 exemptions requests were submitted; 652 were approved, 71 were denied and 14 are under review as of last Friday.

The measure introduced on Tuesday came with a change from the initial bill: Workers who got an exemption would be required to stay compliant through Dec. 10 in order to get the $400 bonus at the end of the year.  Compliance involves COVID-19 testing every five days and submitting results to the city.

If the full City Council approves the measure this month, the bonus checks for vaccinated city staff would be given in November.

The city is declining to provide more details about exemption applications, calling them confidential. It won't provide details on the reasons why employees submitted the exemptions, which can be approved for religious or medical reasons.

City lawmakers originally considered the proposal on Sept. 14, rescheduling it for Sept. 28, before rescheduling it again until Tuesday. Lawmakers said the bonus -- which Mayor Michael Hancock's administration framed not as an incentive, but a reward -- was put on their to-do list without much of a heads up, which led to them hitting pause on the proposal last month.

Councilmember Jolon Clark said he still took issue with the program, since he said it was unfair to staff and people in the city who got the vaccine earlier than others. He said he didn't think it was a good proposal, and he joined Councilmember Chris Hinds in voting no on the measure.

Council President Stacie Gilmore, by contrast, said the extra money could prove helpful for most city workers. She joined the majority of lawmakers in forwarding the measure.

The bonus will be available for full-time, part-time, uniformed and on-call employees. Hancock and Denver City Council members aren't eligible to get it.

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