Douglas County leaders to consider paid leave for all employees not working under stay-at-home order

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World File Photo

The Douglas County Courthouse is pictured in September 2018.

Douglas County leaders will soon consider approving paid leave for county employees who will not be working because of the coronavirus outbreak.

As part of its meeting Wednesday, the Douglas County Commission will consider a proposal to pay employees regardless of whether they must report to work under the stay-at-home order issued by local health officials in response to the virus. Department heads have identified essential and nonessential staff, the latter of which would be put on administrative leave with pay for the duration of the shutdown under the proposal, according to a county agenda report.

Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health has issued a stay-at-home order beginning Tuesday, and that will remain in place through April 23. The order closes all businesses and functions that are deemed nonessential.

It is not clear how many county employees will not be working while the stay-at-home order is in place. County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said the county has about 400 employees. When asked how many of those employees have been identified as essential, she said that essential and nonessential numbers were fluid as the county responds to the constantly evolving circumstances. She added that many employees are meeting their essential and regular duties by working at home.

The effect of the shutdown on county revenue may not be as significant as with other local governments. Regarding whether any county revenue could be negatively affected by the coronavirus and associated shutdowns, Plinsky said the county was largely funded by property tax. She said that sales tax, which may see more fluctuation because of the order, was a significantly smaller source of county revenues.

As part of its meeting, the commission will also consider an update to a COVID-19 pay policy it approved last week. The update takes into account new legislation, called the Families First Coronavirus Act, that President Donald Trump signed into law following the commission’s policy adoption. The agenda report states that the act extends paid leave and Family and Medical Leave Act policies as well as health care plan coverage for COVID-19 testing. Many of the provisions are included in the county’s policy, but some updates are needed. The benefits of the policy will be in effect until Dec. 31. The full policy is available as part of the agenda report.

During the work session portion of its meeting, the commission will receive an update on the ongoing behavioral health housing project. Leaders from Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center and the Lawrence Douglas County Housing Authority will provide commissioners an update regarding efforts to develop the programmatic and financial operating plans for the projects currently under construction. In other business, the commission will consider renewing a conditional use permit for truck storage for Jayhawk Excavating at 1724 North 780 Road.

The County Commission will meet Wednesday at 4 and 5:30 p.m. for its work session and regular meeting, respectively. County spokeswoman Karrey Britt said instructions and links for the public to listen to live audio of the meeting would be available on the county’s website,

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