PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Pinellas County officials said they are struggling to keep several departments fully staffed because so many people are out sick or quarantined because of COVID-19.
“When you have 24/7 operations, the impact of having large groups of staff out can be significant including at our jail, our 911 center, and even basic services like providing water and sewer," said County Administrator Barry Burton.
Some units have had as much as a third of employees out. That’s why Burton is asking commissioners to give incentives of $750 to employees who are vaccinated.
The $4 million will come from the American Rescue Plan relief package.
“This is our best chance, absent some type of a mandate to be able to increase those numbers and improve the work environment for everyone," said Burton.
The program is similar to what other counties including Hillsborough and Pasco have already done.
USF Professor Dr. Jason Salemi says it's a big investment, but it's likely still cost-effective to end the pandemic.
“When you start to really weigh all of this I think if giving them money, if the money is really the incentive that pushes them over the limit, I think that’s better for the population’s health in general. But also for all these businesses. I think it ends up saving them money in the long run," said Salemi.
The county commission will vote on the program in an upcoming meeting. If it passes, the employees would get their $750 by the end of the year.