City council member speaks out against receiving premium pay alongside essential workers

Local News

ELMIRA, NY (WETM) – One city council member does not think Elmira elected officials should be getting paid from the funds received from the American Rescue Plan.

Elmira City Council members allocated funds from the American Rescue Plan for essential workers employed by the city who worked throughout the pandemic. The city council included themselves as “premium pay employees.”

City council members each received a check of $2,500 last week, from the $1.1 million set aside for premium pay employees, alongside police officers, the fire department, sanitation workers, code enforcement, etc.

District 1 City Councilmember Nicholas Grasso, said he does not need this money and that he and other elected officials were not put in situations of increased risk by working through the pandemic.

“All elected officials conducted business for the majority of the pandemic of last year virtually… through the safety and comfort of our own homes,” said Councilmember Grasso. “I have this iPad… that was provided to me… so I could continue to do my job, as far as attending meetings, workshops, and responding to constituents’ emails and phone calls.”

After revision of the spending plan, this section for premium pay for employees was the only thing added/changed to the original plan, according to Mayor Dan Mandell. He says that he and other officials are just as deserving of the premium pay as any other city employee.

“Councilmembers were out in their districts… they were put in harm’s way so to speak,” said Mayor Mandell. “We consider everybody an essential worker… Whether it be sanitation, whether it be billings and grounds, our administrative staff, police, and fire, they all kept the city running in this pandemic.”

Councilmember Grasso disagrees and said he will be donating his $2,500 to the community.

“I definitely feel that police, fire, first responders, sanitation, employees who were essential and were still interacting with people throughout the pandemic are definitely very deserving of it,” said Councilmember Grasso.

Currently, premium pay for employees is 8% of the spending plan made for the American Rescue Plan funding. Part-time employees are slated to receive $2,500 and $5,000 for full-time employees.

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