Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Two city councilors say a set of proposed ordinances intended to help workers during the pandemic should undergo economic impact studies before they are taken up for a vote.
Albuquerque City Councilors Don Harris and Brook Bassan said Sunday that they are seeking an economic impact study on a proposed ordinance that would give some essential workers in the city up to an extra $75 per shift in premium hazard pay. And they want an economic impact study and a fiscal impact analysis of a second proposed ordinance that would require employers to give employees up to 80 hours of sick leave for various ailments, including COVID-19.
Councilors Isaac Benton and Lan Sena introduced the two ordinances at a meeting June 15, along with another that would require businesses to provide personal protective equipment, such as gloves and masks, to all employees. Bassan said she and Harris will not ask for studies of the PPE ordinance.
Bassan said that the ordinances were scheduled to be voted on at a special City Council meeting June 29 but that the vote would likely be delayed to make time for the studies. She said she is confident that a third councilor will join her and Harris in asking for the studies, but she didn’t want to say who that is.
The June 29 meeting was scheduled to address the city’s budget. Bassan said the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as costs of the damage done during a Downtown riot June 1 should be looked at first.
“Until we can iron out some of those details, I have a real problem with now starting to put more mandates on businesses that are already either barely able to stay open or just trying to get their feet on solid ground again,” Bassan told the Journal on Sunday. “I think that we need to be very careful that we don’t do things that will harm these businesses more than necessary, because if there is nobody that will employ people, then there’s no one that can pay for sick leave or hazardous premium pay, either.”
Benton didn’t give specific examples but said that sick leave studies have been done in the city in the past and that the results were not as onerous as people opposed to expanded sick pay believe.
He said the proposed emergency premium pay ordinance has not been studied before. It would require companies with 50 or more employees to pay an extra $30 to $75 per shift to workers who are exposed to the public if they make $15 an hour or less.
Benton said the premium pay ordinance is intended to compensate workers who have been deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of people who I see stocking shelves at grocery stores are being paid very low wages with no benefits,” Benton said. “It’s time for a conversation about that. We’d be better off if we had done this a couple years ago.”
Neither Benton nor Bassan could say when the proposed ordinances would be put to a vote. The council does not have a meeting scheduled for July and will reconvene Aug. 3.