The San Diego County Board of Supervisors, led by former State Assemblyman Chairman Nathan Fletcher, has formulated a proposal to distribute stimulus funds provided by the Federal Government’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, including hazard pay to the tune of $40 million for San Diego County staff, Paula Whitsell, Chairwoman of the San Diego County Republican Party announced Monday.
This “hazard pay” is only hazardous to the taxpayers.
The Globe spoke with Chairwoman Whitsell about this extra “stimulus” for government employees who didn’t miss a paycheck during California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 416 days of statewide lockdown. “A lot of people were not so lucky to be able to continue to get paid,” Whitsell said. “And the people who got pushed onto unemployment and had the EDD delayed payments scandal to deal with…what about them?” she asked.
How many San Diego businesses closed during the “non-essential” business lockdown? How many employees were out of work, and then had their unemployment checks delayed or never paid? Isn’t that “hazardous” enough?
“These funds are intended to assist local governments in dealing with the profound impact of COVID-19 on residents who suffered the brunt of the pandemic and the distressed local economy,” Whitsell said.
The Globe asked Whitsell if every county will be distributing “hazard pay” to county government employees. She said she knows that every county will be receiving the Federal Government’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, but said each county also gets to decide how to spend it.
“I hope counties spend it wisely on people who really need it,” she added. “We have seen our neighbors lose their jobs, our local bars and restaurants shut their doors to never reopen, our neighborhood businesses shuttered, and the unemployment rate skyrocket from 3.4% a year ago to a staggering 8.1% in January 2021. Without a doubt, many have suffered enormous economic and emotional hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
San Diego County employees have not missed a single paycheck and many have been able to work from home throughout the pandemic, Whitsell said. “All employees have received all retirement and full benefits during the pandemic as well. San Diego County employees have been able to avoid the severe hardship experienced by many this past year. According to data from County staff, the average cost of a San Diego County employee (salary and benefits) totals $124,640 annually.”
She said she doesn’t begrudge county employees, but said those who lost their businesses and/or jobs, or those who can’t pay their rent should be first in line for the federal funds.
This feels similar to California’s teachers unions demanding “bonus pay” to their teacher members. Those teachers didn’t miss a paycheck, or benefits, or pension payments either. In Sacramento, the Globe has been told by local teachers that some districts are paying teachers a $1,000 bonus “to go back to work,” and one school district is paying $2,500 to each teacher in that district.
Whitsell asked if it is fair to provide San Diego County employees hazard pay while so many others are in desperate need of assistance from local authorities?
“Grocery store employees, fast-food workers, delivery drivers, medical staff, and countless others worked in-person throughout the pandemic, putting their lives at risk each and every day. Where is their hazard pay?” she asked.
This smacks of a really tasteless and inappropriate gift to public employee labor unions, which never suffered during the COVID lockdown the way private sector businesses and employees did.