History has taught us the importance of being creative and flexible in the way we do business. This applies to difficult decisions of various functions within our government.
That being said, the government is comprised of essential employees as well as those who are nonessential and who have now become essential due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The aforementioned employees leave their homes and families daily and brave the storm only to receive no hazardous or differential pay for the services they provide. This situation, in my humble opinion, is insulting to the hardworking men and women of the territory and needs to be remedied.
I know it would be easy for some to say there is no money. However, Gov. Bryan’s COVID-19 update on Aug. 3, 2020, noted that roughly $7.5 million in federal funds from the C.A.R.E.S. Act was brought into this territory. The first entity to be paid was the Water and Power Authority. Through the creation of the Y.E.S. plan, credits of $250 and $500 were given to all residential and commercial customers, respectively.
A local stimulus should and could have been created to assist and provide frontline and nonessential employees — now deemed essential — a differential or stipend for their services. In addition, funding could have been allocated by the implementation of an administrative leave draw-down process. As administrative leave and personal leave are an accrued cost to the government, specifically requiring employees with 300 or more hours to use eight hours of personal or administrative leave biweekly to offset payroll costs would have been beneficial to our government.
In retrospect, COVID-19 is a new experience for us all, to include working remotely for some and braving very dangerous conditions for others in an attempt to provide essential services. Through it all, we must be concise in our approach in facing the pandemic head on.
— Shakirah S. Ritter resides on St. Croix.