At the regular meeting on July 21, Sterling Heights City Council approved amendment to fiscal year 2020/21 budget to allow for payment of COVID-19 hazardous pay for police and fire personnel in the amount of $1,000 for each 252 eligible first responders.
Since the onset of COVID-19, the Sterling Heights Fire Department has responded to more than 540 confirmed or suspected incidents involving COVID-19 patients. SHFD worked proactively to develop ways to both protect first responders by minimizing their exposure to the virus as well protecting those they assisted to help prevent community transmission. Despite the required additional safety protocols, SHFD staff continued to provide the excellent level of service Sterling Heights residents have come to know and expect. Due to the protective measures put in place, including PPE and self-quarantines, only one firefighter tested positive and has fully recovered.
“Prior to the pandemic, the Sterling Heights Fire Department was already well known for its highly trained, dedicated employees and the great service it provides to the community,” said Fire Chief Christ Martin. “But the COVID-19 outbreak really brought out the best in our front line responders. This hazard pay is a well-deserved gesture for the dedication and hard work they exhibited during one of the most trying and uncertain times we’ve ever faced.”
In addition to SHFD, the Sterling Heights Police Department was forced to change police operations significantly due to COVID-19. They eliminated large group roll calls, disinfected patrol vehicles multiple times per shift and added layers of PPE and safety equipment officers were mandated to wear every day. SHPD also reduced office density and added partitions and walls inside the police department to protect officers as well as the public. Due to these protective measures, just two officers tested positive for COVID-19, and both have made a full recovery.
“Our officers took an oath to protect and serve our community, and they are often the last safety net for our residents in crisis. They will always show up when called, regardless of the risk of contracting COVID-19 or even bringing it home to their families,” said Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski. “Over the past few months, officers have had to take unprecedented safety precautions and deal with countless individuals who were sick, injured or said they were COVID-19 positive. I’m so proud of the way our officers have responded in the face of this terrible virus. Their dedication to our residents is commendable and truly professional.”
The efforts of the City’s first responders seems to have paid off. While Sterling Heights is the second largest city in Macomb County, it ranked much lower than surrounding communities in terms of actual COVID-19 cases.
“We’re incredibly proud of our first responders who have unquestionably earned this hazard pay by selflessly working to keep our community safe, despite the risk to their own personal health at the height of the pandemic,” said Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor.
The council-approved hazard pay will be processed through a special payroll on July 24, 2020. The City will be reimbursed for 100 percent of the estimated $252,000 expenditure through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and anticipates receiving reimbursement from the state of Michigan before Nov. 14, 2020.