Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey says some city departments have raised their vaccination rates significantly since the commission approved bonuses two weeks ago.

City officials chose to offer a $500 incentive as a way to increase the number of employees protected from COVID-19.

“We’re not mandating the vaccine,” he said. “Some people need the incentive. We’re trying to keep the city running.”

Prior to the decision to approve the bonus, City Manager Regina McDuffie said only 46% of city employees were vaccinated.

The cost to replace workers stricken with the virus and the city’s share of medical expenses to treat them make it more cost effective to offer the bonuses, she said.

Commissioners voted 3-2 to approve the bonus two weeks ago, with Commissioners Julie Martin and Johnny Cason voting no. They questioned if a bonus was a wise way to spend taxpayer dollars.

McDuffie said it costs city insurance $70,000 for each employee hospitalized with COVID-19.

The money for the incentive comes from American Rescue Plan funding the city recently received.

Since the incentive began, McDuffie said the city has seen a 10% increase in the number of vaccinated employees. Now, more than 52% of the city’s workforce is vaccinated, she said.

City workers who were already vaccinated before the incentive was approved last month are automatically eligible for the $500. Harvey said those bonuses will be given on the next payday.

Harvey said some Georgia municipalities are offering even more to encourage workers to get vaccinated. One city is offering $500 and a day off work to employees who get the vaccine, while another is offering nearly $1,000 to get vaccinated, he said.

City employees have until the end of the year to get the vaccine if they want the bonus.

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