NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Hamptons Roads cities are working to show their staff just how much showing up every day during the pandemic means.
Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Hampton all voted to spend some CARES Act funding on public safety workers and other city employees. But, Newport News has yet to follow suit.
"The cliché is, I like helping people, and I do,” said 25-year Newport News Firefighter Donnie Lewis. “But it is kind of a rush."
Lewis is also the Newport News Firefighter Association President. He said that rush has gotten more complicated during the pandemic.
“Our guys are starting to get exposed more,” Lewis said. “The odds are we are going to get sick and we are. It's been stressful, to say the least."
Lewis said 20 to 30 Newport News firefighters have been quarantined over the last few months.
"Not all get sick, but we can't take any chances,” Lewis said.
Many Hampton Roads cities are shelling out CARES Act funding to first responders and city workers through hazard pay.
We asked Newport News' city spokesperson if any hazard pay proposals were coming. They said no hazard pay has been given to any employee yet. They couldn't tell us if anything was in the works.
The City of Norfolk is cutting a $2,000 check to first responders and frontline workers (waste collectors, jail workers, and many more). A $250 "thank you" check is also coming to employees that don't qualify for hazard pay.
Hampton is giving eligible full-time employees, in a wide range of departments, $2,000. Eligible part-time employees will get $1,000.
Portsmouth recently gave public safety employees and first responders $2,000 and full-time front line employees, in a wide range of departments, $1,000.
Most recently on Tuesday, Virginia Beach voted to give public safety and health and human services employees between $1,000 to $2,000. In September they will vote on another proposal to give "emergency responder" staff, like waste collectors, $1,000. Other staff could get $250.
"It would be good for us at this point because we have the added stress put on us,” Lewis said.
Lewis said he sent information on the CARES Act to the city two weeks ago.
"They have been willing to look at it and I know they are working on it,” Lewis said. “They really are."
He said hazard pay would help boost morale.
"It shows that the city cares and they are willing to give a little bit to help us,” Lewis said.
We also reached out to the City of Chesapeake and Suffolk, but have not heard back yet.