Wolf admin offers additional paid leave to state workers to encourage getting COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccinate PA

FILE – In this Dec. 29, 2020, file photo a Chester County, Pa., Health Department worker fills a syringe with Moderna COVID-19 vaccine before administering it at the Chester County Government Services Center in West Chester, Pa. Moderna said Monday, Oct. 25, 2021 that a low dose of its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and appears to work in 6- to 11-year-olds. It is the second U.S. vaccine aimed at eventually being offered to children. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Wolf administration announced Monday they’ll be offering additional paid leave for Commonwealth workers under the governor’s jurisdiction for COVID-19 purposes and to continue encouraging employees to get vaccinated.

The administration says the additional time off will help support employees as the pandemic continues and offer more incentives to getting vaccinated and protecting the workforce and those the employees serve.

“Each day, millions of people rely on critical programs and services delivered by commonwealth employees. As one of the largest employers in Pennsylvania, we want to make sure our workers have the resources they need to be safe and healthy and be an example to other businesses to follow,” Secretary of Administration Michael Newsome said.

Eligible employees who are fully vaccinated by Dec. 31 can take up to five days of paid time off between Dec. 20, 2021, and March 31, 2022. Employees don’t have to wait 14 days after their last dose to be considered for the incentive.

What happens if an employee does not use their 5 days before the end of March? The FAQ page attached to the email sent to employees says, “unused Verification Leave will be paid out to you as a lump sum within a reasonable period of time at your base rate of pay in effect.”

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“Most of our employees, approximately two-thirds, have worked in-person throughout the pandemic and continue to do so. This new paid leave package is designed to continue supporting our employees during this pandemic, while also helping to end it. By encouraging commonwealth employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine and stay home if they are sick, we are increasing the safety of our workplaces, as well as our communities,” Secretary Newsome said.

In August, Gov. Wolf announced that state workers who’ve been vaccinated can get one day of paid time off. Any employee who’s already verified their status will automatically receive the extra days off.

The leave is also available to eligible management/non-represented employees and represented employees whose unions agree to partake in the offer.

Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity released a statement Monday condemning this plan as “fiscally irresponsible.”

“This decision by Governor Wolf – made in a back-room deal completely outside of the state budget process and away from public scrutiny – is fiscally irresponsible,” Garrity said. “Treasury estimates it could cost Pennsylvania taxpayers more than $100 million. As an independent fiscal officer charged with protecting money that belongs to hard-working Pennsylvanians, I call on the governor to drop this ill-conceived scheme immediately.”

As of Friday, Oct. 29, over 71% of Pennsylvanians aged 18 and older are fully vaccinated, ranking Pa. fifth for total doses given.

Gov. Wolf also announced any unused COVID-19 emergency sick leave is being extended to June 30, 2022.

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