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Albany Will Give Bonuses, Pay Raises To City Employees In First COVID Relief Spending

Dave Lucas / WAMC
Mayor Kathy Sheehan says Albany will use the first portion of its more than $80 million in federal COVID-19 aid to dole out raises to city employees.

Mayor Kathy Sheehan says Albany will use the first portion of its more than $80 million in federal COVID-19 aid to dole out raises to city employees.

Sheehan said Wednesday employees will receive “Premium Pay,” part of the American Rescue Plan Act, which targets workers who “faced heightened risks due to the character of their work.”

"Unionized employees will receive a $2 an hour Premium Pay stipend for every eligible hour that they worked between March 17, 2020, the first day of our statewide shutdown, and March 17, 2021, the first day the COVID vaccine was available to every city of Albany employee."

Sheehan also gave non-union employees a pay raise:

"Our non-union employees, many of them worked remotely, but that work was no less essential to the running of our city and moving our city forward. So that is why today I'm announcing a 3% across the board wage increase for all of our non-union employees, retroactive to January 1, 2021."

The Democrat running for a third term says city employees "risked their lives, day in and day out."

"When the nation shut down, our workforce quickly pivoted to ensure that we could continue to deliver those essential services. DGS crews picked up trash and recycling. The fire department and the police department responded to emergency service calls, with grave risk to themselves and grave uncertainty about what their risks were, and what risks they were bringing home to their families. We continued to provide safe drinking water, ensure that children were engaged in safe activities. We continued to cite building code violations and ensure that development could continue. Our city hall staff worked tirelessly to ensure that our frontline employees had the resources they needed to fulfill their mission. Our workforce literally risked their lives for our community.

Sheehan credited Commissioner of Administrative Services Rachel McEneny with "keeping the city running" and keeping city hall open during the shutdown phase of the pandemic.

"This has been an incredible year. It is an honor that I'm announcing today that Mayor Sheehan has directed my department, the Department of Administrative Services, to provide an additional $1,000 stipend to those non-union employees who put themselves in harm's way to ensure we were open to our residents."

Elected officials are included among non-union employees. Sheehan also announced her first 2022 City Budget proposal: an additional 3% across-the-board raise for all non-union city employees.

"Over the past 13 years, the city's non-union workforce has only received five raises across the board. And those were in the 1 to 2% range. This has led to some significant pay disparities. We are undergoing a pay analysis right now. But in advance of that, we need to get this workforce closer to where they should be, and more competitive. We are in an incredibly tight labor market. And it's very important that we make sure that we are able to retain this workforce."

Sheehan notes that nearly half of Albany's non-union workers earn less than $50,000 a year, and expects the across the board raises will help fill several job openings.

At the end of August, she unveiled a 76-page report detailing 250 ideas in five impact areas for spending American Rescue Plan funding, including assistance to workers, small business support and recovery of the tourism, travel, arts and hospitality sectors.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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