The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution on Monday to provide a $500 incentive payment to county employees who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by the end of the year.
Board documents state that the incentive payment is available to all employees, including those who have already been vaccinated. The incentive is not available to elected officials. Further, employees who request the incentive payment must agree to remain employed by Kitsap County for a minimum of one year following receipt of the payment.
Employees who voluntarily take employment elsewhere before the year’s requirement ends, except due to retirement, shall be required to repay the $500 in an amount prorated according to the number of months employed during the year. Kitsap County has more than 1,100 employees.
The resolution approval requires an expenditure of $400,000 from the county’s Medical Benefit Fund to pay for the incentives. According to documents, the incentive will help “to further the county’s commitment to keep employees and members of the public safe during the COVID-19 pandemic by reducing the collective risk of transmission.”
“We’ve received a fair amount of traffic about this,” Commissioner Rob Gelder said. “Back in 2013, the county became self-funded for our medical care for all county employees. We did that specifically to save Kitsap County taxpayer dollars. To date, we have actually saved Kitsap County taxpayers, through being self-funded, $9.2 million in that eight-year span of time.
“The thing, though, about being self-funded is that you are in fact taking on the risk for those medical claims that may arise. From a purely financial standpoint, we are really looking to mitigate the impact and the risk to the health fund. This is an incentive, it is not a vaccine mandate. This is still borne out of personal choice for the employees themselves.”
“I strongly believe in no mandates for businesses or restaurants,” Commissioner Ed Wolfe said. “I think the vaccine is safe and it’s the best way to put COVID behind us. Hopefully, this will limit the outbreaks that have impacted our ability to provide public services in our community.”