HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A new vaccine incentive in Pennsylvania has state leaders outraged. The governor is offering five extra days of paid vacation to state workers who prove they are vaccinated.
As of Sunday, Oct. 31, only 38% of state workers had verified through the state’s system that they are vaccinated. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the only ones who are vaccinated, just that only that 38% have made the decision to report their vaccination status.
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Reid Walsh, Deputy Secretary for Human Resources and Management, explained that the new incentive plan is aimed at increasing the number of state workers that are vaccinated.
“The Pennsylvania population is not at 100% so we want to do everything we can to encourage that number in the upward direction,” Walsh said.
State employees who verify that they are fully vaccinated by Dec. 31st, 2021 will get 5 extra days of paid time off in addition to the 1 paid day they were already being offered. If they don’t use the days off by April of 2022 they’ll get paid out for them.
PA House GOP Spokesman Jason Gottesman says many Republican leaders are upset about the plan.
“It’s fiscally irresponsible, and it’s completely tone-deaf,” Gottesman said. “So either it’s cold hard cash for the taxpayers for getting the COVID-19 vaccine for state employees, or 5 days paid vacation on top of what they already have.”
State treasurer Stacy Garrity says she ran the numbers on the new incentive.
“It’s an average cost per employee of about $1,600. That’s $800 per shot in the arm, right. So $105 million because the days will be paid out if they’re not used. And that’s a real cost,” Garrity said.
However the Wolf Administration says there won’t be any extra costs to taxpayers.
“The costs are absorbed within the agency budgets,” Walsh said. “I think the most important thing is to get people vaccinated.”
Critics point to those who lost their jobs or businesses during the pandemic.
“Some of those same people who lost their jobs by this administration’s efforts to now foot 5 extra days of paid vacation for administration and governor’s employees,” Gottesman said.
The Governor’s team argues this benefits everyone.
“If our employees are healthy and can be at work and are productive, that’s better for every citizen who receives their services,” Walsh said.
It remains to be seen if the extra incentive will actually make a difference.
“I think offering money to people that for whatever reason don’t believe in getting the vaccine isn’t really going to help,” Garrity said.
This plan could impact the more than 70,000 workers under the Governor’s administration. Treasurer Garrity says workers in her department will not be participating.