BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The County of Kern is looking to provide emergency responders and other essential personnel more financial support while they combat the coronavirus pandemic.
During its Tuesday meeting, the Board of Supervisors will consider approving a resolution providing essential workers in all bargaining units with additional sick leave, child care reimbursement, technology stipends for essential staff working remotely and a paid time off reward for all employees who provide essential services.
The estimated cost to the city for the expanded benefits is $585,700, according to the county.
“The county recognizes that it is critical that these workers are cared for and allowed to remove themselves from service if they become exposed, are quarantined, or test positive for COVID-19,” said chief Human Resources Officer Devin Brown in the resolution.
Brown said the resolution is meant to bridge benefit inequities between essential and nonessential staff.
Brown said the county implemented the Families First Coronavirus Response Act starting April 1, which provides 80 hours of paid sick leave for employees as well as expands the Family and Medical Leave Act to include paid leave for up to 10 weeks to allow employees to care for children due to school closures and loss of child care.
However, essential workers were out of luck, as these new benefits were only for non-essential employees.
“In order to ensure continuity of public safety and health services, the county excluded emergency responders and health care workers from its implementation of the FFCRA,” Brown said in the resolution.
The package includes up to two weeks of paid sick leave to cover a typical 14-day quarantine period, according to the county. This extra leave would be retroactive to April 1 and expire once the local emergency has been ended.
As for the child care reimbursement, it would only be provided to employees who have not already taken leave under the FFCRA for child care. The reimbursement amount is $200 per child per month that the emergency is active and is capped at a maximum of $500 per month, according to the county.
Reimbursement for these child care expenses is retroactive to March 17 and extends until the termination of the local emergency.
The county said $50-a-month technology stipends are meant to help compensate essential workers for the use of their personal equipment for work purposes, such as their internet connection, hardware and software. The stipends are capped at $250.
The county said the paid time off rewards will be handed out once the local emergency is ended. The amount of paid time off will be based on an employee’s weekly average of scheduled hours of essential service provided, according to the resolution. The maximum award is capped at 160 hours.
“The county acknowledges the extraordinary effort that our essential workers are providing during this pandemic,” Brown said. “It comes at a time when many of their counterparts who have been deemed nonessential workers are continuing to be paid while remaining readily available at home. In recognition of this effort, the package includes a reward of additional paid time off for each employee who has continued to provide essential services to our community during the pandemic emergency.”