Fresno city workers sent home because of their age or health status have been ordered to return to work today or use paid leave. The most recent order from Fresno City Manager Wilma Quan, acting as Emergency Services Director, came Friday afternoon.
Quan ordered city employees 65 and older and those who are medically vulnerable to go home with pay when Mayor Lee Brand declared an emergency March 16.
The new order directs those employees to return to work or utilize personal leave balances. Employees who sat out last week will receive administrative leave with pay for that time off.
The order also allows some employees to work from home at their department director’s discretion. Others who wish to stay home can do so with permission and using their paid leave balance.
Employees with COVID-19 symptoms should stay home, without any absence-from-work penalty. They also must report their exposure status.
Union Leader: Let Employees Use Admin Leave
“I sense a resolve that no matter what, they will continue to do their jobs.” — FCEA President Sam Frank
Sam Frank, president of the union representing many city workers — the Fresno City Employees Association — says it is not fair to force older and medically vulnerable employees to use their sick time.
“They are concerned for their health and they’re concerned about the fact that they have a much higher risk of dying should their contract COVID-19 virus,” Frank said.
Frank said employees average eight hours of sick time a month. And, older employees tend to use more sick time. That is why he thinks the city should continue to grant paid administrative leave instead of using their benefits.
“The use of administrative leave is something that happens every day. Look at the police department,” Frank said.
The city often places police officers on paid leave after an officer-involved-shooting.
“It is a valid use of funds. In either circumstance, it is valid when used for an officer under investigation and it is valid for employees to save their lives,” Frank said.
Frank said he didn’t detect panic in emails sent to him from employees.
“I sense a resolve that no matter what, they will continue to do their jobs,” Frank said.
Update from Prior Order
Order 5 updates the order Quan issued last week, allowing employees to stay home.
“Emergency Order 2020-04 states that employees directed to remain home during this emergency will not be required to use leave time or take leave without pay. We did this in order to allow enough time to reconfigure workspaces to make them compliant with social distancing and disinfect the work surfaces so that our workplaces are as sanitary as possible,” city spokesman Mark Standriff told GV Wire via email.
The city council approved an emergency declaration on March 16 granting Quan powers to set city emergency policy.
At the time, the city estimated 80 employees went home because of age or health status. It is not known how many returned to work today.
Despite the closure last week of Fresno City Hall, the public can attend governmental meetings. But there won’t be any this week.
All Fresno city government meetings have been canceled this week, according to the City Clerk’s website.
Those meetings are the Civil Service Board, Historic Preservation Committee, Housing and Community Development Commission, and Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee.
The Fresno City Council’s next scheduled meeting is April 9.
County to Vote on Eviction Moratorium
[Update 3/24/2020, 12 p.m. : the following items have been updated to reflect the results of the meeting.]
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors held its regular meeting Tuesday.
While open to the public, the meeting room had many chairs marked with an ‘x’ to prevent anyone sitting there, in the name of social distancing.
One supervisor, Sal Quintero, participated in the meeting via telephone. The remaining four, Buddy Mendes, Steve Brandau, Nathan Magsig and Brian Pacheco, attended personally.
An evictions moratorium was on the agenda, but was continued to allow staff more time to work on the ordinance. No debate was held. The next scheduled meeting is April 14.
The plan called for evictions for residential and commercial tenants to halt through May 31. Tenants would need to show proof that their failure to pay rent is related to the COVID-19 crisis.
Reasons can include loss of a job or hours, business closure, or the need to stay home to take care of children.
The emergency ordinance, however, does not relieve the tenant from paying rent.
‘X’ marks the spot at today’s @FresnoCountyCA Board of Supervisors meeting. The public is welcome, but social distancing is in full effect.@stevebrandau @BuddySupervisor @LincolnSeward pic.twitter.com/Qx0NJwt1xE
— David Taub (@TaubGVWire) March 24, 2020
$2.1 Million for Low-Barrier COVID-19 Shelters
The supervisors voted 5-0 to approve a $2.1 million contract with RH Community Builders to add 265 low-barrier emergency shelter beds.
“This action is intended to provide an environment in which persons experiencing homelessness can isolate or quarantine if necessary, during the current COVID-19 pandemic,” the staff report says.
The beds will be placed in existing Fresno locations: 120 beds at 2550 W. Clinton Ave, 105 beds at 2445 W. Whitesbridge Ave., and 40 beds at 1040 N. Pleasant Ave.
Fresno County Social Services Director Delfino Neira said a future option is to rent hotel rooms for those who need to be isolated.
During the debate, county counsel brought up potential insurance and liability problems. The supervisors hope those items can be worked out.
According to staff, each facility will include staff providing food, maintenance, and transportation services.
The contract also requires RHCB to provide sanitary supplies and comply with COVID-19 protocols.
Funding is from state emergency grants approved last week. The contract is retroactive to March 16, and good for 60 days, with four 30-day optional renewals.