ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – More than 5,000 City of Albuquerque employees will get bonuses as a result of federal pandemic relief money. However, there are concerns that a lot of the workers who received the money are not even close to being “frontline workers.”
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These bonuses were budgeted back in May by the city council. While it originally appeared the money would only go to frontline workers like officers and Solid Waste employees, that wasn’t the case. “When you start breaking it down and you realize who these people were and what they were doing,” said Council President Cynthia Borrego.
Three million dollars was set aside for one-time bonuses after City Council budgeted their American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 allotment back in May. “We really wanted to make sure we appreciate it because at the time, there was no vaccine and they put their life on the line to make sure the city continued to operate efficiently,” said Councilor Klarissa Peña. “Even people who worked from home continued to carry out their duty as a city employee.”
When Council President Borrego first tossed around the idea more than a year ago, she wanted bonuses to go to frontline workers, specifically mentioning jobs like nurses, firemen, police, and bus drivers. But as we’ve recently learned – the funds approved by City Council are going to more than just what’s considered “frontline.”
The bill with the funding allocates the money as “one-time premium pay for essential employees.’ Today, the City of Albuquerque, told us that all 5,400 employees – whether they showed up in-person or worked from home — are considered “essential.” Renee Martinez, Director of the city’s Dept. of Finance and Administrative Services issued the following statement:
“During the height of the pandemic, employees who could perform their job duties from home were permitted to do so. Teleworkers were typically in positions that provide support services to ensure the continuous delivery of city services throughout the pandemic. Frontline workers such as transit and solid waste drivers, law enforcement, first responders, and cooks and childcare providers at city facilities reported to work in-person throughout the pandemic.”
The city says full-time employees will get $500 while part-timers will get $400. Borrego says they originally wanted to include other frontline workers in these bonuses like nurses and other medical staff but were told the funds could only go to city employees. The mayor’s office said that bonuses like these are not out of the ordinary, citing how Albuquerque Public Schools and other government agencies gave out similar bonuses.