Throughout the pandemic, Rockland firefighters and EMTs responded to more than 2,000 calls, including 300 suspected cases of COVID-19.
The president of the Rockland Firefighters Union, Carl Anderson, said firefighters put themselves at risk throughout the pandemic but went out on every call anyway. Now they’re asking the city for bonus pay for the stress they endured.
“Sixty-seven weeks of a state of emergency, and every day was a different thing,” Anderson said.
Anderson has asked the City Council for pandemic pay bonuses for hours worked during the state of emergency for all 18 full-time firefighters and EMTs, as well as the 10 reserve firefighters they depend on when calls get heavy.
“Ideally, it’s for giving back to the first responders that never took time off, or never worked from home, or couldn’t really zoom in an EMS call,” Anderson said. “You know, they showed up every single day.”
Rockland is getting more than $700,000 in federal grants from the American Recovery Act, which can be used for COVID relief, infrastructure projects and bonus pay for first responders.
“All of our first responders have worked so hard through COVID, and they’re absolutely deserving,” Rockland City Councilor Sarah Austin said.
Austin said the city has stormwater needs and other essential workers to consider.
“We don’t have a huge pie of money to divide up, but I think that’s definitely on the list of things I’d be interested in making happen if we can,” Austin said.
Mayor Ed Glaser said he supports the bonus pay.
Anderson said he understands the city can’t “dish into the coffers” to give everyone a bonus “for doing their job,” but that the money was provided by the federal government for communities to give back to first responders, among other things.
The South Portland City Council already approved pandemic pay for its firefighters. A few other communities are considering the same. Rockland would be the first on the midcoast.