During a press conference, Chatham Area Transit’s Interim CEO Valerie Ragland joined representatives from Chatham County, City of Savannah, and the Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools System in announcing a COVID-19 incentive program for employees.
“We are honored and excited to work with our community partners in helping to make sure our employees and residents are safe and healthy,” Ragland said. “The vaccines have proven to be safe and effective and can help prevent further suffering.”
Under the incentive program, all employees will be paid $500 to get the vaccine. Guidelines will be forthcoming with details of the time period for employees to receive the vaccine. The program also applies to employees who have already received the vaccine.
The costs to CAT are expected to be about $150,000. Since the payouts were not included in the 2022 fiscal-year budget, CAT plans to initially use reserve funds to cover the costs. The reserve funding is expected to be restored when anticipated American Rescue Plan Act funding is received.
“The money should only be considered a bonus to getting the vaccine,” Ragland said. “The real incentive is your ability to help protect your life and the lives of others.”
The incentive follows the continuing rise of COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant and hesitancy among residents to get the vaccine. The pandemic has continued to impact CAT operations, as safety measures and COVID-related absences, in combination with a staffing shortage, cause disruptions that include unusual delays in service for customers of CAT’s fixed-route and CAT Mobility paratransit service.
“In our workplace, absenteeism continues to climb, and it definitely affects our levels of service,” Ragland said. “I am thankful to the employees of Chatham Area Transit that have stepped up, although sometimes overwhelmed, to continue service to our community.”
CAT is continuing to require passengers on CAT vehicles to wear masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, as required by the Transportation Security Administration. Other safety measures include enhanced cleaning and reduced capacity on fixed-route buses and CAT Mobility paratransit vehicles.