CAT to incentivize employees to get COVID-19 vaccine with American Rescue Plan funds

Sept. 14, 2021
Employees who are already vaccinated or who take steps to get vaccinated can qualify for a $500 incentive.

Chatham Area Transit (CAT) is joining Chatham County, the city of Savannah, Ga., and the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System in a program to offer employees an incentive for being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We are honored and excited to work with our community partners in helping to make sure our employees and residents are safe and healthy,” CAT Interim CEO Valerie Ragland said. “The vaccines have proven to be safe and effective and can help prevent further suffering.”

Employees who have already received the vaccine and those who receive it will be eligible for the $500 incentive. CAT says guidelines regarding the time period employees will need to receive the vaccine to take advantage of the incentive will be released at a later date.

“The money should only be considered a bonus to getting the vaccine,” Ragland said. “The real incentive is your ability to help protect your life and the lives of others.”

During a press conference announcing the incentive program, the partners said the incentive covered roughly 10,000 employees. CAT employees account for 300 of that total and the agency says about 40 percent are already vaccinated. Costs to the transit agency to participate in the incentive program are estimated at $150,000, which will initially be covered with reserve funds, but will be restored when anticipated American Rescue Plan Act funding is received.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which was signed into law in March, includes $30.5 billion for transit agencies to maintain staffing levels, maintain service and bridge funding gaps caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

CAT explains the incentive follows the continuing rise of COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant and hesitancy among residents to get the vaccine. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health Coastal Health District, the rolling seven-day average of newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases is down from its pandemic peak in August, but remains much higher than in previous peak periods, including July 2020 and January 2021.

The Georgia Department of Public Health reports 47 percent of Chatham County residents are fully vaccinated and 54 percent have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

CAT explains the pandemic continues to impact operations, as safety measures and COVID-related absences, in combination with a staffing shortage, cause disruptions that include unusual delays in service for customers of CAT’s fixed-route and CAT Mobility paratransit service.

“In our workplace, absenteeism continues to climb and it definitely affects our levels of service,” Ragland said. “I am thankful to the employees of Chatham Area Transit that have stepped up, although sometimes overwhelmed, to continue service to our community.”

Last week, President Joe Biden announced plans to require all businesses with more than 100 employees to require COVID-19 vaccines. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is against vaccine mandates and posted a tweet that said he would pursue legal action to stop the Biden Administration’s mandate plan.

What is occurring in Chatham County is not a mandate, but an incentive. Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said the city and county’s partnership on the incentive program shows the entities are “united against a common enemy and that is COVID-19.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.