Montgomery County is offering its employees a $150 incentive to get fully vaccinated

The county hopes to raise vaccination rates among county employees, under a mandate enacted Oct. 18. The incentive expires Dec. 31.

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A dose of a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at Lurie Children's hospital, Nov. 5, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

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Montgomery County’s Salary Board has approved a one-time $150 financial incentive to encourage vaccination among employee holdouts.

Full-time and part-time county employees who can provide proof of vaccination are eligible for the supplemental pay. Elected officials, per diem employees, and those who work less than a certain number of hours are not. The financial incentive expires on Dec. 31.

County Solicitor Josh Stein said at the Salary Board meeting that new county employees will be eligible as well.

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“As long as they can become fully vaccinated and upload that information into our system by Dec. 31 of this year, they will receive it,” Stein said.

Montco officials hope the incentive will raise vaccination rates among county employees. The county enacted a vaccine mandate on Oct. 18. But so far, only 85% of the nearly 2,800 county employees have complied — meaning about 400 employees require testing on a weekly basis.

Dr. Richard Lorraine, medical director of the county Office of Public Health, said in an interview Friday that successful immunization of county employees could save lives.

“And this is much safer, both for the individuals who, by nature of their employment with the county, come in contact with a lot of people, and it’s also safer … for them in terms of transmission to others,” Lorraine said.

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The four-member Salary Board voted on the incentive during a recent Board of Commissioners meeting. Commissioners Val Arkoosh and Ken Lawrence Jr. and county Controller Karen Sanchez voted in favor of the measure. The lone holdout was Commissioner Joe Gale.

“This major personnel and spending decision was made without my knowing or input,” Gale said. “And frankly, I find this taxpayer-funded carrot for so-called good behavior to be morally unacceptable and fiscally irresponsible — and I will be opposing it.”

In comparison, Philadelphia’s mandate for city employees comes with a Jan. 14 deadline and more teeth: Get vaccinated or risk losing your job. To encourage compliance, the city has offered a $300 incentive.

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