The City of Dubuque is implementing an incentive program to encourage staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

On Monday, the Dubuque City Council will review the program, which will provide city staff with a $100 incentive, in the form of gift certificate or donation of the staff member’s choice, for each willingly choosing to receive the vaccine.

The program was drafted as a way of motivating city staff to receive the vaccine who might be wary of doing so.

“We don’t know how many staff will elect to become vaccinated,” said Shelley Stickfort, director of human resources for the city. “It made sense to encourage employees to receive the vaccine.”

City staff who qualify for the incentive will choose one of three options to receive it: a $100 gift certificate from a local restaurant of the employee’s choice, $100 gift certificate from a local not-for-profit organization or a $100 donation made in the employee’s name to a not-for-profit organization of the employee’s choice.

Stickfort said the three options are designed to benefit both city employees and the community as a whole.

“The incentives that we chose would benefit the community’s local restaurants as well as local nonprofit organizations,” she said. “Hopefully, multiple restaurants and organizations would benefit from it.”

With approximately 750 employees, the incentive program is estimated to cost up to $75,000 if all city staff receive the vaccine. The program will be paid for through excess local option sales tax revenue the city received in November.

While no city staff members were surveyed to determine what percentage are willing to receive the vaccine, Stickfort said research by the Human Resources Department indicates the likelihood that not all staff will willingly receive the vaccine.

Additionally, Stickfort said a group of Dubuque firefighters was recently offered the vaccine because of direct work with medical providers. While the majority did choose to receive the vaccine, there were some that did not.

“We are very cognizant that there are staff who may have reservations about the vaccine,” Stickfort said. “We have been working to provide staff with as much factual information about the vaccine as we can.”

City Manager Mike Van Milligen authorized the expenditure, and Dubuque City Council members expressed support for the program.

City Council Member Danny Sprank said he felt the incentive would both encourage staff members to receive the vaccine, as well as act as a bonus thanking them for their work during the pandemic.

“City staff are not allowed to be given bonuses or incentives like the general working population,” Sprank said. “It’s something that we can do to help out our staff for all of their hard work they have had to do, and it’s not affecting our funds. I don’t see the harm in it.”

City Council Member Brad Cavanagh said he also supports the program as a way to get more city staff vaccinated.

“I’m concerned that not enough people are going to get vaccinated,” Cavanagh said. “I think incentives like this are a good idea.”

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