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City commission votes to provide home COVID-19 test kits and $250 vaccine incentive to employees

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

At the Gainesville City Commission’s January 6 meeting, the commission decided to incentivize City workers to get vaccinated, provide each employee with two home COVID-19 test kits, and encourage the University of Florida to reinstate their COVID-19 dashboard.

Commissioner Harvey Ward requested last week that the agenda item on vaccine incentives and “other COVID measures” be added to the meeting’s agenda. The commission had previously told employees that they would get $250 once they were fully vaccinated and then had canceled the incentive after vaccine mandates were prohibited in the November legislative special session. Ward said his only goal was to encourage City workers to get vaccinated, “Simple as that. Don’t read anything else into it. All the science indicates that vaccinated people are less likely to be hospitalized and die with COVID. I want our City workers healthy.” 

He made a motion to mail two home COVID test kits to every employee’s home; send a letter encouraging the University of Florida to reinstate their Screen, Test and Protect program, including their COVID dashboard “and also recognize President Fuchs’ tenure”; and pay $250 to every City worker who has been previously or will become fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with the program continuing until the commission directs otherwise. 

The ensuing discussion clarified that employees will not be paid until they provide proof of vaccination, that “fully vaccinated” means two shots, that it’s a one-time payment, and that staff can decide how to deliver the test kits to employees. Mayor Lauren Poe said they might need to “figure out how to incentivize” boosters in the future.

Interim City Manager Cynthia Curry warned that it may take time to procure the test kits, given current supply issues. The kits will be paid for with ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds. 

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The motion passed unanimously, with Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker absent.

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