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New perks just dropped for county workers who get vaccinated

Thursday, August 26, 2021 by Seth Smalley

The Travis County Commissioners Court passed an initiative Tuesday offering incentives to county employees who get their Covid-19 shots. The enticement takes the shape of two days of paid personal leave to all employees who can show their double-signed vaccination cards.

The program will begin Sept. 1 and last for two years. Travis County Human Resources Director Shannon Weidauer explained that any future CDC or court-approved recommendations (including the booster shot) will be included in the incentive program.

“The original ask was a proposal for unvaccinated people,” Weidauer said. “If our entire workforce was unvaccinated, that would be the worst-case scenario because we currently have no way of knowing who is and isn’t vaccinated.”

Though the program was originally intended to be offered only to those who are unvaccinated, County Judge Andy Brown proposed an amendment (which passed unanimously) to open the benefits to anyone who could show proof of vaccination before or after the start of the initiative. While the change will reward early vaccination, it increases the total cost of the program by significantly expanding eligibility. Weidauer told commissioners the incentive will cost $4 million, should every county employee take advantage of it.

“So just to clarify, for the public that means that even if a county employee has already been vaccinated, they could still get the benefits of this program. That is the goal of it,” Brown said.

To encourage more speedy vaccination, Commissioner Ann Howard expressed interest in shortening the June 30, 2022, deadline for employees to get vaccinated in order to get time off.

“The first date of next June, I’d like to move up to, I don’t know, the end of October or the end of the calendar year,” she said.

Weidauer explained that the thinking of the original deadline was to extend the benefits to new hires in the program, who would start after Howard’s proposed dates. However, Weidauer said the deadline could be revised for existing employees and new hires could be given a vaccination window of 30 to 60 days, after starting their new jobs, to receive the benefits.

Editor’s Note: Andy Brown is on the board of the Capital of Texas Media Foundation, the parent nonprofit of the Austin Monitor.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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