ROCKLAND (WGME) — Throughout the pandemic, Rockland firefighters and emergency medical personnel responded to more than 2,000 calls — including 300 suspected cases of COVID-19.
Rockland firefighters want some of the city’s federal pandemic money to go to them for pandemic pay.
Carl Anderson, president of the Rockland Professional Firefighters Local 1584, said that throughout the state of emergency, firefighters put themselves at risk but went out on every call anyway. He said they are now asking the city for some bonus pay for the stress they endured.
“Sixty-seven weeks of a state of emergency. And every day was a different thing,” said Anderson, who is both Rockland firefighter and emergency medical technician.
He has asked the city council for pandemic pay bonuses for hours worked during the state of emergency for all 18 full-time firefighters and EMT’s as well as the 10 reserve firefighters they depend on when calls get heavy.
“Ideally, it’s for giving back to the first responders that never took time off, or never worked from home, or couldn’t really Zoom in an EMS call. You know, they showed up every single day,” Anderson said. “Without anyone here testing positive for COVID.”
Rockland is getting more than $700,000 in federal grants from the American Recovery Act.
The money can be used for COVID relief, infrastructure projects, and bonus pay for first responders.
“All of our first responders have worked so hard through COVID. And they’re absolutely deserving,” City Councilor Sarah Austin said.
The city’s mayor said he supports the bonus pay.
Austin noted the city has stormwater needs and other essential workers to consider.
“We don’t have a huge pile of money to divide up. But I think that’s definitely on the list of things I’d be interested in making happen if we can,” she said.
“We understand that the community can’t dish into the coffers to try to give everybody a little bonus for a thank you for doing your job. But this is something that’s provided by the government to maybe let the communities give back to their first responders,” she said.
The South Portland City Council already approved pandemic pay for its firefighters. A few other communities are considering the same. Rockland would be the first municipality to do so on the midcoast.