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Sulphur Springs Fire Department Applying For Homeland Security Grant

City Council Approves Extension Of Temporary Emergency Paid Sick Leave Due to COVID-19 Policy, Zoning Board Appointment

Sulphur Springs City Council approved resolutions for a Homeland Security grant application and an extension of the temporary emergency paid sick leave due to COVID-19 policy were approved, and a new Zoning Board appointment made during the regular February council meeting this week.

Homeland Security Grant

Sulphur Springs Fire Department Chief David James sought approval to submit a grant application to the Office of the Governor’s Homeland Security Division for funding for two ventilator fans.

SSFD is requesting $7,590 to purchase the fans for the department to use during hazardous materials operations as well as daily fire service functions. The fans would assist fire personnel in quickly ventilating structures with positive and negative pressure. If approved, the Homeland Security grant would cover the entire cost of the purchase, with no local match required, James noted.

City staff recommended the City Council approve a resolution allowing the grant application to be submitted to the Office of Governor’s Homeland Security Division for the ventilation fan project. The City Council unanimously approved the resolution.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Policy

Sulphur Springs Director of Human Resources Gordon Frazier asked the City Council to consider extending the temporary emergency paid sick leave policy, granting additional paid sick leave for city employees who are out because they have COVID-19 or have had a high risk exposure requiring quarantine.

Frazier explained that the original mandate for the policy was enacted by the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, which required certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The time frame outlined in the FFCRA ended on Dec. 31. He proposed extending the policy to continue paying city employees out due to COVID-19 as stipulated previously, with the policy to remain in effect as long as the State of Texas Disaster Declaration due to COVID-19 does.

 FFCRA stipulated that all employees of covered employers are eligible for two weeks of paid sick time for specified reasons related to COVID-19. Employees employed for at least 30 days are eligible for up to an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave to care for a child under certain circumstances related to COVID-19. Part-time employees would be eligible for the number of hours of leave the employee works on average over a 2-week period.

Qualifying Reasons under the FFCRA for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work (or unable to telework), according to the Department of Labor, include if the employee:

  1. is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
  3. is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);
  5. is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or
  6. is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.

Currently, funding is not provided by the federal government to help employers make up the extra cost, but having the policy in place would allow the city to apply for reimbursement if federal funding does become available, Frazier noted

This will help all employees, but especial those with young families, not worry about the impact of lost income while out according to the policy due to COVID-19 if they would not have enough sick or paid leave time otherwise.

“Employees will feel very comfortable taking off for sick leave due to COVID-19. We do not want them to try to come back if there’s any possibility of being exposed,” City Manager Marc Maxwell said.

“I think this is a good thing,” City Mayor John Sellers noted during the Feb. 2 City Council meeting.

The City Council unanimously voted in favor of extending the policy until the state disaster declaration ceases.

Zoning Board Appointment

Following an executive session that lasted about 40 minutes, Sulphur Springs City Council reconvened in regular session with only action taken on only one item.

Twila Gill was nominated to serve on a city Zoning board.

Screenshot from Sulphur Springs City Council’s February 2021 meeting, after reconvening from executive session. The meeting was conducted on Zoom, and streamed for public viewing on YouTube.

Author: Faith Huffman

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