$500 incentive approved for county employees who received vaccine

The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution Monday to provide a $500 incentive to county employees who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by the end of the year.

Board documents state that the payment is available to all employees, including those who have already been vaccinated. The incentive is not available to elected officials. Further, employees who request the incentive must agree to remain employed by the county for a minimum of one year following receipt of payment. Employees who voluntarily separate employment before one year, except due to retirement, shall be required to repay the $500 in an amount prorated according to the number of months employed during the year. Kitsap has over 1,100 employees.

The approval requires an expenditure of $400,000 from the county’s Medical Benefit Fund. Documents say the incentive will help “to further the county’s commitment to keep employees and members of the public safe during the COVID-19 pandemic by reducing the collective risk of transmission.”

“I strongly believe in no mandates for businesses or restaurants,” Commissioner Ed Wolfe said. “I think the vaccine is safe, and it’s the best way to put COVID behind us. Hopefully, this will limit the outbreaks that have impacted our ability to provide public services in our community.”

Commissioner Rob Gelder said, “This is an incentive, it is not a vaccine mandate. This is still borne out of personal choice for the employees themselves.”

Gelder explained it’s also a good move because medical care for county employees has been self-funded since 2013. Over the eight years that has saved county taxpayers $9.2 million.

“The thing though about being self-funded is that you are in fact taking on the risk for those medical claims that may arise. From a purely financial standpoint, we are really looking to mitigate the impact and the risk to the health fund,” he said.