(The Center Square) - Denver City Council gave its final approval to a program that will pay a $400 bonus to city employees who got vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 30.
The program is one of two pandemic-related benefits proposed by the city's Department of Finance in September. The other program apportions $8.8 million in funds received under the federal American Rescue Plan to provide hazard and premium pay benefits to employees who work in congregate settings or near vulnerable populations.
City Council also adopted a corresponding resolution that amends Denver's charter to establish the bonus program.
Both bills passed by an 8-3 margin on Monday with Councilmembers Amanda Sawyer, District 5, Jolon Clark, District 7, and Chris Hinds, District 10, voting against them.
Councilwoman Sawyer told City Council that the bonus program "is not something [Denver] needs to be spending city dollars on."
The bonus program has been a particularly divisive topic in City Hall since it was introduced in September. After its initial introduction, City Council voted to postpone the bill for further discussion.
When it re-emerged before City Council's Finance and Governance Committee in early October, some council members argued the bonuses would send the wrong message to Denver residents.
"Giving a bonus for something that everybody is expected to do furthers the idea that getting vaccinated is a 'bonus'; it is an extra thing that people can do," Clark said during a meeting earlier this month. "We need to be focused on letting all Denver residents know that getting vaccinated is not something extra - it is the responsibility of responsible citizens."
Mayor Michael Hancock in early August said all city employees had until Sept. 30 to get fully vaccinated.
As of October 1, Denver Chief Financial Officer Brendan Hanlon said 98.7% of city employees were fully vaccinated. Another 650 employees received religious exemptions.