City of Savannah discusses cost of employee vaccine incentive

Photo: Getty Images

BySean Evans

Published:Sep. 14, 2021 at 6:05 PM EDT

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - We’re learning more about the newly implemented COVID-19 vaccination incentive program adopted by some of Chatham County’s largest public employers.

The City of Savannah, along with Chatham County, Chatham Area Transit and the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System announced they’re going to give employees who get fully vaccinated $500.

While the incentive plans for each of the four agencies are mostly uniform, there are some difference, like how each entity is funding it.

Instead of using federal aid to encourage more employees to get fully vaccinated, and reward those who already have, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said the city will use $1.3 million from the general fund to cover the program.

According to the city’s budget office, money is coming from salary savings from employee turnover, planned retirements and position vacancies.

“At the end of the year, the budget has to be balanced. So, if the opportunity is there for us to use it, I think that’s the most appropriate for us to use it,” said Mayor Johnson.

Mayor Johnson said in addition to the general fund dollars being available, another reason he’s in favor of using taxpayer dollars instead of some of the city’s share of $27 million in American Rescue Plan funds, is the fact that we’re still in the middle of hurricane season.

Johnson said, “I think it’s prudent for us to make sure that we get through this hurricane season before we make any mass allocations to anything.”

Right now, the City’s vaccination rate for employees sits around 55 percent. Mayor Johnson says the more employees vaccinated will lead to fewer disruptions in taxpayer services like sanitation and public safety.

“To me this is an integral part of our continuity of operations plan. So the fact of the matter is, the money is going to be used for something anyway. So if this incentive program helps us to maintain our service delivery, which our citizens deserve, then I am for it.”

The city’s vaccination incentive program is in effect now, and ends Nov. 15.

Savannah has several upcoming vaccination clinics for employees at city facilities over the next few weeks.

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