Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers Tuesday proposed ordinances to the Snohomish County Council to provide supplemental pay to front-line, public-facing county employees and certain grocery workers in unincorporated Snohomish County.
With the re-opening of businesses later this month, the tightening labor market and the spread of new variants, this supplemental pay will ensure essential government functions and access to groceries is uninterrupted, a county announcement said.
“Our frontline workforce has been putting themselves at significant personal risk for the last 17 months providing ready access to food, shelter, safety and other essential government services,” Somers said. “While these proposals are short-term measures, these essential workers have earned this supplemental pay. I urge the County Council to swiftly consider and approve these ordinances.”
Snohomish County Council Chair Stephanie Wright said that county workers and grocery employees “have kept our essential services running during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we will continue to rely on them for the next phase of pandemic response and recovery.” The measure also has support from County Council Vice Chair Megan Dunn, who noted: “All work has value—from bagging our groceries and stocking shelves to driving snowplows and protecting the public—and we value the sacrifices of our frontline families.”
During the pandemic, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office reported an increase in mental health and suicide-related calls, with a large spike in January 2021. The Snohomish County Human Services Department also reported an increase in demand for services during the pandemic, including an increase of over 30% in housing- and shelter-related calls between April 2020 and March 2021. Snohomish County Solid Waste Division reports an increase of 7% in tonnage handled from May 2020 through April 2021.
The proposed ordinances would provide a one-time hazard payment ($1,250) from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to those front-line Snohomish County employees who throughout the pandemic have been public-facing and engaged in essential government services. Grocery workers would receive $4 per hour in hazard pay until either Gov. Jay Inslee lifts his state of emergency or Dec. 31, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.
“Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office law enforcement and corrections personnel have put themselves on the front lines of the pandemic since the very beginning,” said Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney. “Without an option to work from home, our staff have continued to serve our community with integrity and selflessness, and we appreciate this show of support to county front line employees for the essential work they’ve done over the last 18 months.”
The proposed ordinances were transmitted to the Snohomish County Council Tuesday for their consideration.