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Calif. state LEOs, COs to receive $1,500 pandemic bonuses

State employee unions have been making cases for bonuses since early in the pandemic


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By Wes Venteicher
The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — About 42,000 public safety employees in California will receive pandemic bonuses of $1,500 each through union agreements posted online on Friday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration negotiated the payments with unions representing state correctional officers, California Highway Patrol officers and public safety employees ranging from park rangers to lifeguards.

State employee unions have been making cases for COVID-19 bonuses since early in the pandemic. While other state employees were able to work at home, public safety personnel dealt with multiple outbreaks at prisons, hospitals and other state facilities.

The stipends will go to employees represented by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen and the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, according to agreements posted by the Human Resources Department.

At $1,500 each, the stipends for the 42,000 employees covered by the union agreements come to about $63 million. But some might be ineligible. The Human Resources Department hasn’t finalized costs, spokeswoman Camille Travis said in an email.

Last summer, in a round of negotiated pay agreements, Newsom’s administration promised to discuss bonuses once the federal government finalized guidelines on using federal aid money for essential worker premium pay.

The American Rescue Plan Act guidelines were completed in April, and negotiations began. The guidelines were broad enough that the state could have used the money to pay bonuses of up to $25,000 to all of its roughly 230,000 employees.

The final agreements were much more modest, and in line with bonuses paid to public employees in several other states, including North Carolina and Oregon.

After the April publication of the federal guidelines triggered the contract provisions requiring the talks, the state Finance Department said all of the federal money had been allocated.

In an online post last week, the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association said the state opted to use the federal money on “other authorized needs” but will pay the stipends from a different source.

Travis, the Human Resources Department spokeswoman, said funding sources will depend on “the departments and employees deemed eligible,” and that the state won’t know the final funding source until agreements are finalized and payments are issued. The agreements must be approved by the Legislature.

To be eligible for the bonuses, workers had to be employed by the state as of Jan. 1, 2022, and they must remain employed by the state on July 1, 2022. The bonuses won’t count toward employees’ pensions, according to the agreements.

The California Statewide Law Enforcement Association’s online post says the stipends are for “both peace office and non-peace officer employees regardless of whether they performed in-person work.”

Agreements have not been posted by CalHR for any other unions.

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