Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston is asking his fellow commissioners to support a move to give something extra to the county’s emergency responders who are putting in so much time and effort during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners called and held an emergency meeting and voted to exempt county emergency workers from some paid leave provisions provided in a federal bill related to virus relief. If not made exempt, county emergency workers could have received up to 12 weeks paid leave in some situations where a family member had the virus or a child needed to be looked after. However, county commissioners were worried that the move by the federal government could have left the county with a shortage of emergency workers.

Alston, who voted for that successful motion to exempt last week, proposed this week that the Guilford County Board of Commissioners grant all of the emergency responders affected by the resolution a 5 percent pay increase effective retroactively, from April 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020.

Alston noted that, at that emergency meeting, the board approved a motion to “authorize the exclusion of emergency responders as defined by the US Department of Labor from the emergency paid sick leave act, for the importance of maintaining critical staffing levels and emergency services to our citizens during this pandemic.”

“I personally voted for this resolution because I do think it is important for us to provide this level of protection for our citizens at this crucial time in our county,” Alston stated in his letter to the other eight commissioners and to top county staff. “However, after considering the effect that this resolution will have on our emergency responders and their families who are or possibly will be affected by this pandemic and who would also have to spend extra money to take care of their children who cannot go to school, through no fault of their own, I think that we need to do something special for our emergency responders to show our appreciation and support for them making this sacrifice on behalf of the citizens of this county.”

Alston asked for staff to prepare a cost estimate for the move and stated that he’s prepared to make a motion to adopt this increase at the Board of Commissioners’ next meeting on Thursday, April 16.  

It’s not clear yet whether other commissioners will approve the move or not.