CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA)– Some Champaign County correctional officers are asking to be paid according to the risk they’re taking every day.
“We don’t have a choice in the matter. These officers [have] come to work every day since the pandemic started,” shared officer Micah McMahon.
Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman sent the County Board a memo in July that laid out a $5,000 stipend for corrections officers and deputies, also known as COVID Hazard Pay. He said it was meant to start the conversation.
Last week, the Champaign County Committee of the Whole unanimously approved a $5,000 bonus for new hires at the jails, but that doesn’t help officers who have been around for years, like McMahon.
He has testified in support of hazard pay several times in the last couple of months. A part of an officer’s job in the jails right now is to quarantine COVID-positive inmates. Mcmahon said officers still have to have direct contact with them, creating a risk of bringing the virus home.
“Even though I do feel at risk, we have a job to do. Every correctional officer that puts this uniform on knows that, and they’re willing to do it,” McMahon added. “And that’s the key is that they will come to work knowing that they’re possibly going to be around somebody that could pass it on to them. But we still have a job to do, because if we don’t do it, who will?”
Sheriff Heuerman said, initially, he was against any type of covid premium pay, but his officers are still operating under Phase 1 protocols from the state and the sheriff said he decided he needed to advocate on their behalf.
The board is considering hazard pay for any county employees that have to work in person right now, according to Chairman Kyle Patterson. He said this is a priority for the board, but it’s unclear when a vote could take place.
The money would come from the American Rescue Plan.