Chattanooga, TN – The Chattanooga City Council recently proposed a budget amendment that would guarantee all city employees get a one time bonus before Christmas. However, any discussion of relief funding for local small businesses has been pushed to next year.
City Council had its final meeting of the year and approved a $1.7 million budget that would give each city employee a one-time bonus. Individuals that were able to work from home during the pandemic would receive four hundred dollars while five hundred dollar bonuses would be given to those who couldn’t.
This amendment was approved late on Tuesday night. City Council says employees will receive this bonus in the paychecks that go out on December 18.
These bonuses come after city employees had to go without raises in order to provide relief to the damage caused by the tornado that hit Hamilton County on Easter Weekend. The damage meant that the council had to make many last-minute budget cuts equaling $8 million. These cuts included a hiring freeze as well as asking current city employees to go without raises.
This budget amendment was first introduced last month and was also slated to include $300,000 in relief to small businesses that have suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic. Another $500,000 in funding would go towards offsetting other negative impacts of the virus.
The proposed bonuses were approved through a unanimous council vote, but there were several debates on the rest of the relief funding. This caused City Council to defer that issue until early next year. Some council members are worried that this could be a decision that ends up hurting small businesses.
On Tuesday, Councilman Jerry Mitchell said, “To wait to January 5th, and today’s what, December 15th, how many businesses are we going to lose before we even get to the fifth and talk about it again?”
Council Chair Chip Henderson said “I would prefer that we wait until the fifth to get the information that we requested, that we needed. And I know that in the past we’ve worked together as a council when we’ve had concerns, when we’ve had more information needed. We’ve worked together to make sure that we make the best decision possible. So I would respectfully request that we go ahead and follow our plan of action that we set forth last week and address this on the fifth.”
While Mitchell yielded to Henderson’s request, he said he is still concerned about the impact it could have on local businesses. The chief of staff to Mayor Andy Berke, Kerry Hayes, said they will work with the city council and do what they can to have a plan approved as soon as possible.
Hayes said, “Struggling small businesses and Chattanoogans who are out of work need our help right now. We are glad that the city’s hard-working employees will receive some assistance before the end of the year, but we will continue to work with the City Council about how we can get more relief to our small businesses and families as soon as possible.”