Fairfax Co. approves $2K pandemic bonuses for county gov’t employees in ‘high-risk’ jobs

Editor’s note: The hazard pay bonuses are for county government employees only. 

Fairfax County will provide one-time $2,000 hazard pay bonuses to county government employees who have worked through the coronavirus pandemic in “high-risk” positions.

The bonuses were unanimously approved by the 10-member Fairfax County Board of Supervisors during a meeting Tuesday. The bonuses were first suggested by a board committee last month, which proposed bonus payments of $1,500. That amount was increased in the final vote to $2,000.

Overall, the total cost of providing the bonuses is estimated at $9.2 million and will be funded through a $10 million allocation set aside from federal coronavirus relief funds. Overall, the county has received just over $200 million in federal coronavirus relief through the CARES Act, which has been used for public health programs, rental, housing and food assistance and relief for small businesses.

“Our first responders and other members of our County staff put their lives on the line every day, risking contracting COVID-19, in their work with the community,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “We are grateful that we have sufficient funds via the CARES Act to support hazard pay for our employees.”

To determine which employees qualified for the one-time payments, the county decided to use coronavirus workplace safety standards developed by the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health program last summer which describe levels of risk in the workplace.

The county’s hazard pay bonuses will only be paid to employees who work in “high risk” and “very high risk” jobs.

Virginia’s workplace safety standards classify high-risk jobs as those “with a high potential for employee exposure inside 6 feet to known or suspected sources” of the coronavirus, including hospital workers, medical transport providers, mortuary services workers, medical and dental staff, nonmedical support staff, long-term care facility staff and home health care workers, among others.

Very high-risk are those with a high potential for employee exposure during specific medical, post-mortem or laboratory procedures with specimens that are known to be sources of the coronavirus.

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Among the other requirements for county hazard pay bonuses: Employees must have been employed in a merit position on or before Oct. 1, 2020 and must be currently employed by the county; and they must have been working and not on leave for at least 70% of their hours since the start of the pandemic.

Employees who have previously received a pandemic-related bonus will have that amount deduced from the $2,000 bonus.

Final verification of employees in high and very high-risk positions will be undertaken by the county’s department of human resources.

Other bonuses planned

In addition to the hazard pay bonuses, the board is taking steps to provide a one-time bonus to all county government employees, with the board voting Tuesday to direct the Department of Management and Budget to identify funds to pay the bonuses.

“We are approaching the end of what has been a difficult fiscal year and our prudence allows us to provide our employees bonuses without impacting future budgets,” McKay said in a statement. “I know this is nowhere near a pay increase our employees may have expected in better times, but it is a modest way in this troubling fiscal environment to say thanks. I know I speak for all of us when I say how proud I am of the way all our employees stepped up this past year.”

There’s no decision yet on the amount of the one-time bonus payments.

The county’s Department of Management and Budget was directed to come up with a recommendation as well as a timeline for paying them out sometime in third quarter of this fiscal year.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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