Lexington council approves $15 million for ‘hero pay’ for some employees

·2 min read

The Lexington council voted unanimously Thursday to set aside $15 million from federal coronavirus relief money for supplemental pay for up to 1,700 city employees who worked during the pandemic.

Lexington city officials have yet to say which employees will qualify for the additional pay from the American Rescue Plan Act money. COVID vaccination status will not be a factor. The city does not know how many of its employees have been vaccinated.

During Thursday’s council meeting, Chief Administrative Officer Sally Hamilton said the city should have recipients identified and amounts set at an Oct. 26 meeting. Also at that meeting, the council will discuss supplemental pay — likely from surplus money — for employees who do not qualify for American Rescue Plan Act money.

Hamilton said the city has a little more than 1,400 sworn employees in the police, fire and corrections divisions. She said the city estimates another 300 employees will likely qualify for the additional pay. It’s not clear if sworn officers in administrative positions or those making more than $100,000 will be eligible for the cash, sometimes referred to as ‘hero pay.’

A bonus of $5,000 has been proposed. Whatever the amount, the city would have additional costs per worker from required pension contribution increases that accompany the higher pay.

The $15 million is part of the roughly $120 million in American Rescue Plan Act money the city is set to receive over the next two years. The council will continue debate on potential projects to fund with that money at a meeting on Oct. 26.

Lexington-Fayette Urban County Councilman David Kloiber proposed Thursday that the city include private-sector employees — such as nurses, day care workers, grocery store workers— and up the amount from $15 million to $80 million.

Kloiber argued giving money to the people who worked during the pandemic was the right thing to do and it would help the local economy.

“Economists and politicians have agreed that putting money back into the hands of those that deserve it is one of the most effective methods for economic recovery,” Kloiber said.

Other cities and states have implemented premium pay plans that include private-sector employees, Kloiber said. Gov. Andy Beshear has proposed spending $400 million in state coronavirus relief money on bonus pay for essential workers.

Kloiber’s proposed amendment ultimately died by a 12-2 vote. Councilman Richard Moloney was the other council member to support the proposal.

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