As the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continues its spread, Scottsdale is looking to take care of its employees still working amid the pandemic.
The Scottsdale City Council approved on consent a resolution authorizing additional emergency sick leave pay for city emergency responders and complete coverage of claims for employees and dependents for COVID-19 treatment.
To cover additional sick leave, city staff estimate it to cost $35,000 per pay period for all employees but could range between $20,000 to $50,000, all of which would come out of the General Fund contingency budget or another appropriate fund contingency. While the duration is unknown, city staff provided an estimate of $210,000 for six pay periods as an estimate.
As for the coverage of medical expenses, the city sets its estimate at $32.2 million, which is already part of the budget in the health care trust.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act allowed the city to offer up to 80 hours of paid leave for employees who get COVID-19. It also provided the city an option to exclude emergency responders from the new federal leave, which the city chose to do.
Scottsdale defined emergency responders as certain employees in the fire, police and water departments which the fire chief, police chief and water resources executive director designated.
“The city’s intent in excluding emergency responders from FFCRA was to ensure staffing levels are sufficient to handle this crisis situation,” a city staff report states. “However, the city intends to also provide emergency responders with a similar level of coverage to other employees if they became sick due to COVID-19.”
The resolution affords emergency responders with city-paid emergency sick leave. It totals two weeks rather than 80 hours since some fire employees work 56-hour weeks and, like non-excluded employees, emergency responders would need to use their personal accrued time off for additional time to recover.
The start of the emergency paid sick leave is retroactive, beginning April 1 when the FFCRA coverage began. The city plans to offer its coverage until Dec. 31 or if Congress rescinds the program.
As for medical costs, the city is going beyond what the Workers’ Compensation program offers.
City staff say Workers’ Compensation will cover an occupational disease if an employee can prove a work-related cause of the illness and the illness is not one to which the general public can equally contract.
City staff say it is likely that employees can say coming to work and interacting with the general public can be deemed a higher risk, the city can’t guarantee that since Workers’ Compensation is a state-governed program and the city can’t add a legal presumption of compensability.
That is why the city elected to go beyond Worker’s Compensation and offer its employees and their dependents the coverage through its Cigna insurance. Employees can still file for Workers’ Compensation after diagnosis and if it is accepted, they won’t have to change primary doctors. Under the same circumstances, loss of income will be paid out of the Workers’ Compensation claim for any time missed.