City workers will get $400 bonuses for getting vaccinated, while other city staff will be eligible for additional pay

Denver City Council approved two bills to use both local and federal money to reward employees for their work during the pandemic.
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Denver’s City and County Building. Aug. 10, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Thousands of city workers will get a one-time pay bump this year after lawmakers okayed two separate measures rewarding workers who got a required COVID-19 shot and those who worked in person during the pandemic.

Denver City Council on Monday approved the one-time $400 bonus for vaccinated city staff and premium pay for eligible city employees who were required to work 50 percent or more time in-person, and/or physically handled items handled by others during the height of the pandemic last year. The premium pay includes up to $250 per eligible month between March and December 2020, so some eligible workers could get up to $2,500 in a lump sum payment.

The bonuses measure passed in an 8-3 vote after being delayed twice at the committee level. The bonuses will be available for workers who show proof of vaccination or who got an approved exemption before the Sept. 30 deadline.

The initiative was framed as a reward, not an incentive.

Councilmembers Kendra Black, Kevin Flynn, Council President Stacie Gilmore, Chris Herndon, Paul Kashmann, Robin Kniech, Amanda Sandoval and Jamie Torres approved the measure, though none spoke in favor of it when voting.

Councilmembers Jolon Clark, Chris Hinds and Amanda Sawyer opposed the measure. On Monday, Sawyer repeated similar comments she said the previous week when the bill was introduced. She said the money would be better spent on improving community policing, renovating playgrounds or building out more city sidewalks.

“I want to recognize our incredible city staff, they’re fantastic,” Sawyer said. “But I just don’t think that this is a good use of our $5 million.” (The bonuses will be paid with $5 million from the city’s contingency fund, which will have a $17.4 million balance after Monday’s decision.)

The measure to give city employees premium pay, or hazard pay, was approved unanimously. This program will cost $16.6 million, and use federal money, including $8.8 million from the American Rescue Plan Act and $7.8 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Lump-sum payments for premium pay will be provided next month. More than 7,400 city employees are eligible for this additional pay.

Bonus payments are scheduled to be included on employees’ Nov. 26 paycheck. However, workers who got a vaccine exemption will need to stay compliant through Dec. 10 in order to get their bonus in their Dec. 23 paychecks. Compliance will include getting COVID-19 testing every five days.

City figures show 99.1 percent — 10,607 full-time employees — have complied with the order, meaning they were vaccinated or got an exemption, according to the most recently available figures from Oct. 8, the most recent figures available.

The City has approved at least 643 vaccine exemptions.

This story has been updated to clarify the requirements for employees eligible for premium pay. 

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