Fort Collins is planning to shell out one-time "thank you" payments to its city workers for their efforts and service in 2020, particularly during wildfire season and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Coloradoan, the one-time payments will range between $100 and $1,500 after taxes, based on work carried out between Spring 2020 and Spring 2021. The dollar amount depends on whether the employee was an hourly worker and whether their duties required them to be on-site or in the community.

City officials estimate that these bonuses will cost about $2.9 million, which will come from savings in the city's 2021 budget.

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"The intent behind this is to express gratitude and appreciation to our city employees and recognize what has really been an unprecedented year, both in terms of COVID and also in terms of the fires and the recovery impact that has had on our city workforce," interim city manager Kelly DiMartino said.

According to DiMartino, city staff opted for the one-time bonuses rather than backpay for raises not granted during the pandemic so they could recognize the impact on all employees and provide additional recognition for those who were on the frontlines.

Over the last year or so, countless city employees have endured health risks and/or stressful conditions in order to best serve the Northern Colorado community during a global health crisis and during the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome wildfires.

City staff said more than 1,000 city employees have tested positive for COVID-19, shown symptoms of the virus, or been exposed to someone who tested positive.

In the midst of it all, Fort Collins was put into a citywide hiring freeze, which went on to affect 640 hourly employees who were met with a loss of income during furloughs that lasted a minimum of two months.

Fort Collins City Council voted unanimously (6-1) and approved the one-time payments on Tuesday (Oct. 5) during a meeting.

The Coloradoan said several members of the council expressed their support for the payments, which they called a good use of unspent personnel funds that will set an example for other employers in the community.

"I applaud the thoughtfulness that went into this," council member Julie Pignataro said. "We talk a lot about the city as a leader, as a leader of this community and as (its) third- or fourth-largest employer. We're showing our community this is how we're going to do things to keep our organization successful, and hopefully, some of the other employers in the city can do the same."

Mayor Jeni Arndt shared words of approval as well; "I'm absolutely thrilled that we have the money (to do this)," she said. "My philosophy personally is to always invest in people first, because organizations are made up of people, and government's nothing if it's not the people."

An estimated 2,050 city employees are reportedly eligible to receive a payment.

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2020 Cameron Peak Fire