(Kimberly James) – Nevada is facing a $911 million budget shortfall this fiscal year because of coronavirus-related restrictions put in place that led to shuttered businesses and hundreds of thousands of workers filing for unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
That’s not stopping the city of Las Vegas from rewarding 1,300 city employees with 3.23 percent hazard pay bonuses this month, even if they haven’t been on the job during the pandemic. No wage or benefit concessions have been made and the city has avoided layoffs.
That’s not sitting well with some government watchdogs.
“The city’s decision to give ‘hazard pay’ bonuses to government employees, while private sector workers struggle with the highest unemployment rate in the nation, is a slap in the face to those who are struggling to rebuild their livelihoods,” Michael Schaus, communications director of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, told The Center Square.
The bonus money is slated to come from federal CARES Act funding. The CARES Act prohibits governments from using funds directly as bonuses to employees but does allow limited use of funds for hazard pay as a result of the pandemic.
“Any CARES relief funding should have been used to shore up the foundational needs of city government, not handed out as bonuses,” Schaus said. “Of course, such fiscal restraint isn’t nearly as politically-profitable as pandering to public-sector unions, so we’re likely to see little in the way of serious or meaningful wage or benefit concessions in the near term.”
This decision comes as part of a deal with one of the city’s largest bargaining units. In defense of their actions, city officials say that one-time bonuses are preferable to continuous cost-of-living increases because they don’t increase baseline budgets and don’t affect pensions in any way.