As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to challenge the City of Newton, Newton municipal employees recently reached a 100-percent compliance rate with the city’s employee vaccination policy, according to Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller’s Jan. 21 newsletter.
Newton required all of the city’s employees to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 14 unless they have received an exemption, according to the city’s vaccination policy.
There are a total of 884 permanent municipal employees of Newton, according to Fuller’s newsletter. Of those, 790 employees are currently fully vaccinated, according to the newsletter, and 43 employees have pending requests for an exemption or are currently in the process of being vaccinated against COVID-19. The newsletter reported that 51 employees have already been approved for exemptions.
Two non-union employees are no longer employed with the city after refusing to comply with this requirement, Fuller wrote. Four employees resigned or retired because of the vaccination policy, according to the newsletter.
“Once the pending employees come into full compliance, we expect that 95% of our City employees will be vaccinated, thus matching the extraordinarily high vaccination rate of our residents,” Fuller wrote.
Achieving the high compliance rate was done in coordination with many individuals and departments, particularly within unions.
“Over the past several months, our teams in Health and Human Services, Human Resources and the City Solicitor’s Department joined with all our City department staff to answer the questions of our employees and our City union leaders,” Fuller wrote.
The Newton Police Association was the only city union that chose not to sign a memorandum agreeing to comply with the vaccine mandate.
“I am grateful to all of our union leadership who spent many hours and days talking about this important workplace safety initiative,” Fuller wrote. “It was important to me as Mayor to include our unions in conversations about the impact of this policy.”
The City is providing a one-time stipend to every full-time union and non-union employee who complied with the vaccination policy, according to the newsletter.
“Those who worked through the most challenging months of the pandemic will receive a stipend of $1,500. Employees who joined our team more recently will receive $500,” Fuller wrote in the newsletter.
Federal law mandates that because they opted out of signing the memorandum, members of the Newton Police Association will not receive stipends, Fuller wrote. The funding for the stipends will be provided with American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds totaling approximately $1 million, according to Fuller.
“Again, I am so grateful to our employees, ” Fuller wrote. “During the 22 months of this pandemic, they have been committed and caring, working in person if their job required or pivoting to working from home. They worked long hours under trying circumstances while balancing the needs of their own families with the needs of Newtonians.”
Featured Graphic by Liz Schwab/ Heights Editor