By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
In a near empty chamber on Tuesday, the Birmingham City Council approved $500,000 in hazard/overtime pay for city employees working during the COVID-19 health crisis.
The nine-member council, Mayor Randall Woodfin and only a few city officials were in the chambers on the third floor of City Hall where councilors sat separated because of social distancing mandates required by the Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH), the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and the city.
“It’s important when we’re addressing those challenges that we stay focused on the balancing act of providing basic service to our residents but at the same time understanding that we take more measures to protect our employees,” Woodfin said.
In total, 1,978 city employees and first responders will be included in the allocation including:
- Police and Corrections: 922
- Fire: 607
- Public Works: 220
- Planning, Engineering and Permits: 100
- Municipal Court: 90
- Finance: 29
- Mayor’s Office: 10
The funding will be for one month as the city deals with the COVID-19 health crisis.
Hazard pay is for employees who work with or in close proximity to materials of “micro-organic” nature which when introduced into the body are likely to cause serious disease or fatality.”
“As a council we have an obligation to make sure the city’s business can continue despite the public health crisis,” said Council President William Parker. “We are committed to doing whatever we can to help our first responders and workers who are on the front lines of this public health crisis.”
The money is not reimbursable, but city officials are exploring options with additional federal funding in the case that the hazard pay needs to be extended.
Also, beginning next week, public works will shift to a 10-hour, four-day work week temporarily during the COVID-19 crisis.
“This allows them to put in full days while also giving them an extended break and the removal from potential exposure,” said Woodfin. “Due to the increased demands, we will also temporarily suspend recycling pickup citywide with the following exception of two routes that are part of a pilot program.”
Though there will be no pickup, residents can still take their recyclable items to the designated place, said Woodfin.
“As the city grapples with this public health crisis, our first responders are out on the frontlines protecting the public and responding to calls across the city,” said Councilor Hunter Williams, chair of the Public Safety Committee. “We are committed to doing everything in our power as elected officials to provide them with the protection and resources they need to do their jobs and remain safe during this time.”
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