During the Monday, Sept. 20 meeting of the Dawsonville City Council, council members discussed the possibility of providing vaccine incentives to city employees who have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to City Manager Bob Bolz, each week he sits in with the Georgia Municipal Association virtual conference, and other counties in the conference have been offering incentives to encourage their employees to get the vaccine.
“They’re pushing herd immunity and the quickest way to get there is encouraging vaccinations,” Bolz said. “Canton is doing a $500 per employee, Hall County is doing a $500 per employee… we’re recommending a $250 incentive.”
Bolz said that, if all 21 of the city’s employees got the vaccine, the incentives would reach a grand total of $5,250. $2,100 of this amount would be reimbursed to the city through the American Rescue Plan Act, which offers to cover $100 per employee, so the city’s total responsibility would be the remaining $3,150.
“This would encourage people and be an incentive for employees that have gotten vaccinated or want to get vaccinated,” Bolz said. “We think we can cover it easily in what we’ve set up for overtime fees.”
Currently, Bolz said that the city allows its staff to go get the vaccine on work time, and that they do not ask who has received the vaccine and who has not. If the city were to implement the vaccine incentive program, those wishing to participate would have to show proof of vaccination to receive the money, otherwise employees still will noy be asked whether or not they have been vaccinated.
Dawsonville Mayor Mike Eason added that the incentive program would apply to city employees who have already received both doses of the vaccine, as well as those who have not yet elected to receive it.
“This takes care of people that have already been vaccinated...they get this as well,” Eason said. “If somebody goes and gets vaccinated, when they get their second shot they bring the card in and show it.”
Council Member Mark French requested to hold off on voting to approve or deny the incentive program, citing questions that he had for city legal council.
“What are the city’s liability issues with this if at some point in the future it’s determined the FDA should recall any of these?” French asked the city’s attorney, Jonah Howell. “Typically speaking, they recall a number of medications throughout the year, I think there have been 25 so far this year and 40 last year, and I don’t want to make anyone doubt the effectiveness of the vaccine, but as we all know, sometimes as things progress situations occur and I don’t want the city to incur any additional liability.”
Howell addressed French’s question, saying that as long as the city makes sure all employees know receiving the vaccine is voluntary the city should not have any legal issues, should the council approve the incentive program.
“Really, the big concern for the city would be ensuring that it only appears as an incentive because then there’s nothing but kind of a carrot at the end of it,” Howell said. “It’s still a voluntary act by the employee and doesn’t violate any kind of constitutional issues or OSHA requirements or anything like that, so it can’t be said that the city compelled its employees to do something.”
Council members decided to hold off voting on whether or not approve the vaccine incentive program until next month’s meeting, allowing French and the other council members time to iron out any further concerns or questions before voting on the issue.