City of Harlingen giving police, firefighters hazard pay

The city’s shoring up its first line of defense amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Through August and September, the city is paying each of its police officers and firefighters $300 a month in hazard pay.

Earlier this month, city commissioners approved the plan to dip into the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES, to fund the stipends.

“ During this pandemic, this is something the city council wanted to do,” City Manager Dan Serna said Tuesday.

“ They come in contact with personnel during their duties,” Serna said, referring to police officers and firefighters.

The city is paying stipends to police officers in the department whose average salary stands at $46,208, and firefighters, who draw salaries averaging at $42,716.

Meanwhile, the stipends exclude the departments’ chiefs and assistant chiefs.

Increased health risks

Across much of the country, cities are boosting police officers’ and firefighters’ pay for jobs that increase their risk of contracting COVID-19 as cases continue to swell.

For police and firefighters, the coronavirus pandemic creates another hazard as they perform duties that regularly place them in unknown surroundings and circumstances.

“ Their health on the job has been more risky during this pandemic and the recognition from the mayor and commissioners is well-deserved,” Police Chief Michael Kester stated.

At the fire department, Chief Roy Rubio described the commissioners’ decision to offer the stipends “a very thoughtful gesture” for men and women he called “dedicated public servants.”

“ Their health and safety has been placed at high risk during these challenging times which our nation is facing due to this ongoing pandemic,” he stated.

As it oversees CARES Act funding, the federal government is allowing the city to be reimbursed for up to $3.7 million to cover COVID-19-related expenses, city spokeswoman Irma Garza stated.