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With just an estimated 50 percent COVID-19 vaccination rate among Madison city employees, city leaders are enacting several incentives to encourage employees to become fully vaccinated, including a $200 bonus.

“I have expressed my frustrations. I am at my wit’s end with this,” said City Manager David Nunn, during the incentive presentation at the Mayor and Madison City Council work session last Friday morning. “This affects us all and how we do our work. I am trying to remind individuals aside from the responsibility to themselves and their families that they work for the public...we just need to think outside of our little bubbles. We are trying to encourage people and not beat anybody down.”

Right now, city leaders are aiming to use positive reinforcement to increase employee vaccination rates, but may resort to other tactics if necessary.

“This is one step, but it may not be the end of it. We might have to mandate weekly testing for those who are not vaccinated in the future.”

According to city leaders, unvaccinated employees will not yet be subject to weekly testing or other measures to urge vaccination compliance.

“We are not looking to penalize unvaccinated employees, but we are strongly encouraging them to get vaccinated,” said Chief Finance Officer Karen Stapp.

Instead of penalizing, the city is hoping to incentivize more employees into getting fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Stapp explained four incentive measures the city is enacting to encourage vaccination among city employees.

The City is offering paid time off to get vaccinated. Vaccinated employees can receive up to eight hours of comp time. If vaccinated employees test positive for the coronavirus, the city will pay up to five days for them to quarantine at home. If employees get fully vaccinated by Oct. 31, they will receive a one-time bonus payment of $200. This bonus payment would also apply to employees who have already gotten vaccinated.

Madison Mayor Fred Perriman approved the new incentive measures, but was skeptical about whether or not they would work.

“I think these are good incentives for our employees, but how many of them do you think will take it?” asked Perriman. “If you just look at Georgia — [vaccination rates] are just terrible here in Georgia.”

Councilwoman Chris Hodges suggested bringing in educators and motivational speakers to help hesitant employees through the process of getting vaccinated.

“I think storytelling is a big motivator,” said Hodges. “There are so many people who got sick and were in the ICU and wish they had taken the vaccine and they’re telling others to take it.”

According to Stapp, the city is keeping tabs on what other municipalities around the state are doing to increase vaccination rates.

“We are not looking to penalize anyone for being unvaccinated,” said Stapp.

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