First responders receive hazard pay amid COVID-19 pandemic

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SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah (ABC4 News) — South Salt Lake is paving the way for first responders in Utah.

It is the first and only city in the Beehive State to provide its first responders with hazard pay. From now until Dec. 30th several first responders (firefighters, police officers, and paramedics) will receive an extra $150 per paycheck.

It’s been a heated issue in Congress and was officially introduced on Sept. 22nd of this year.

“It’s always nice to get a little extra money,” said Captain Jared Christensen.

Christensen has been working at South Salt Lake Fire for more than 15 years and said it’s a job he always dreamed of having. He said having the extra pay will help out his family. He has a wife and two boys, aged two and seven.

“Definitely boosts morale for employees to get a little extra something for what we have been dealing with the last couple of months,” said Christensen.

It’s been several months since the onset of COVID-19 in the US and first responders like Christensen said South Salt Lake has been prepared and taken precautions ever since.

“When we transported our first Covid patient there was definitely a heightened stress level,” said Christensen.

That stress is what the city council noticed and used funds from the CARES Act to allocate an extra $117,000 to first responders.

“We have always known we have a dangerous job, but now we are dealing with something that we can easily take home to your families and that is the scary part for all of us,” said Christensen.

All of city council passed the executive order.

“I was actually surprised when it was put on our agenda for our council meeting,” said South Salt Lake City Council Member, Corey Thomas.

Thomas represents district 2 in SSL.

She said the unanimous decision was easy and hopes it inspires other cities throughout Utah to do the same. 

“I am excited that we are possibly leading the way in this,” said Thomas. “I hope it does encourage other cities to look at this as a possible help to their first responders because they deserve it.”

Essential workers have been putting their life on the line during this pandemic so we asked our community its thoughts.

In a Facebook poll, we asked the question, “do you think essential workers should get hazard pay amidst the COVID-19 pandemic?”

Most people said yes, with Abraham Thomas writing, “Why’s that even a question? Of course, yes.”

However, some people were on the other side. They said no. More specifically, one viewer said on Facebook, “Nope they still have a job. Millions do not.”

“I look forward to seeing other cities at least discuss this and possibly helping their first responders as much as we have,” said Thomas.

“We always deal with people’s worst situations in their homes, in their cars in their business,” said Christensen. “Always an uncontrolled environment. This just adds on top of that.”

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