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Snohomish County Executive proposes COVID-19 related hazard pay for front-line workers

On June 8, 2021, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers proposed the county council pass ordinances providing supplemental pay to front-line, public-facing county employees and certain grocery workers. Funding would come from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. Photo courtesy of Snohomish County.

From a June 8, 2021, Snohomish County press release.

Today, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers proposed ordinances to the Snohomish County Council to provide supplemental pay to front-line, public-facing county employees and certain grocery workers in unincorporated Snohomish County.

With the re-opening of businesses later this month, the tightening labor market, and the spread of new variants, this supplemental pay will ensure essential government functions and access to groceries is uninterrupted.

“Our frontline workforce has been putting themselves at significant personal risk for the last 17 months providing ready access to food, shelter, safety, and other essential government services,” said Somers.

He went on to say, “While these proposals are short term measures, these essential workers have earned this supplemental pay. As the labor market tightens, it is vital that we retain a healthy and motivated workforce to serve our communities.  These measures will ensure we keep all our systems functioning as we transition toward recovery, while still keeping disease transmission to a minimum. I urge the County Council to swiftly consider and approve these ordinances.”

During the pandemic, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office reported an increase in mental health and suicide-related calls, with a large spike in January of 2021.

The Snohomish County Human Services Department also reported an increase in demand for services during the pandemic, including an increase of over 30% in housing and shelter related calls between April 2020 and March 2021.

Snohomish County Solid Waste Division reports an increase of 7% in tonnage handled from May 2020 through April 2021.

The proposed ordinances would provide a one-time hazard payment ($1,250) from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to those front-line Snohomish County employees who throughout the pandemic have been public-facing and engaged in essential government services.

Grocery workers would receive $4 per hour in hazard pay until either the Governor lifts his state of emergency or December 31, 2021 at 11:59 pm.

Grocery employees and front-line county employees have been working under hazardous conditions for almost 18 months. They are working in these hazardous conditions now and will continue to face safety risks as the virus presents an ongoing threat, including the threat of more contagious variants, for an uncertain period.

Ensuring that grocery and public-facing county employees are compensated for the substantial risks of working during the COVID-19 emergency promotes retention of these vital workers. Retention of these employees is fundamental to protecting the health of the community and access to food.

This ordinance is immediately necessary in response to the COVID-19 emergency because the health threats that grocery and certain county employees face remain significant, and COVID-19 variants may further increase transmission of the virus and reduce therapeutic treatments. This is a rapidly evolving situation, with disproportionate risks and adverse impacts for BIPOC communities, that should be addressed without delay.

The proposed ordinances were transmitted to the Snohomish County Council today for their consideration.

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