Executive order authorizes hazard pay to CN employees
TAHLEQUAH – With many employees of the Cherokee Nation continuing to fulfill their job duties in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin announced on June 26 the signing of an executive order authorizing hazard payments to workers.
The supplemental payments will be given to each employee as a lump sum, and varies with whether the employee was needed on site full time, part time or continued to perform duties from home. The payments cover the period from March 16 – June 1, 2020.
Total payment is $3,500 for each employee in office full time; $2,375 for part time and $1,000 for in home.
Hoskin said the infusion of funding from the federal CARES Act helped the Cherokee Nation retain a sound financial footing despite the loss of some revenue streams due to COVID-19.
‘We really talked about from the very beginning about compensating those employees who reported for work at their work site at our request, or engaged in telework during the pandemic,” Hoskin said.
The March 16 – June 1 period was “a perilous time,” Hoskin said.
“It was a time of uncertainty in terms of everyone’s knowledge of the virus and its spread,” he said. “It was a time during which we had fewer resources with which to protect the workforce, relative to what we have today. Given the risks the workers faced and them being needed as public servants, we believed some compensation was warranted.”
The executive order also requires all Cherokee Nation entities to award similar hazard payments to their employees, though they cannot exceed those being given by the CN. Among those entities are Cherokee Nation Businesses LLC, Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Cherokee Nation Comprehensive Care Agency, Cherokee Nation Home Health Services Inc., Cherokee Health Partners LLC, Cherokee Nation Foundation, and the Cherokee National Historical Society Inc. Career Services Training participants will also receive hazard pay in some form.
“Everyone who worked for the Cherokee Nation should be compensated, whether it was a day training participant who showed up every day to keep the facilities cleaned and maintained alongside the full staff, or a doctor or a nurse in the health system,” Hoskin said. “I think what employees will find is, whether they work for the government, our businesses or other entities, they will have the same opportunities to receive the same hazard pay compensations or telework stipends.”
Though health care workers certainly faced risks when the pandemic broke, Hoskin noted that there has been a large food distribution effort for elders and those who can’t leave their homes.
“Across the spectrum, Cherokee Nation employees came to their workplaces knowing this was the worst public health crisis in generations,” he said. “They knew they had families at home depending on them financially, but also depending on them to keep them safe and healthy. I’ve said over and over that we’re all in this together, and this is another way we have shown that.”
The executive order states workers as eligible who were “substantially dedicated” to responding or mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 health crisis. It points to critical or essential employees being exposed to higher risk due to the hazards created by the pandemic, and for those working from home, the additional costs to meeting work responsibilities from home that might not be easy for the Nation to meet with employees submitting statements for reimbursement.
Assessments will be made to determine employees’ respective levels of increased hazard, and will receive the associated payment.