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Dunkirk: Being responsible with free money

Dunkirk Common Council, which proposes to take $300,000 of American Rescue Plan Act and divide it evenly among workers, faces a major conundrum. As far as this city is concerned, there is a great deal of need and poverty, which is being overlooked by this action.

While we are not against many of the employees receiving hazard pay during the pandemic from March 2020 to August– especially those who patrolled the streets and went into homes to assist others — there is something that is a little bit rotten in this proposal. As first reported by the OBSERVER, each employee would receive a one-time payment that would range between $1,500 to more than $2,000. Even council members — who right now receive about $5,000 per year — could share in the payment.

That is just troubling. For the record, city workers are well compensated already. In 2020, 155 employees earned more than $9.2 million before health-care and retirement benefits. That’s an average of $59,355 per worker in a city where the median income is around $22,000 per individual.

Those living in this city are well aware of major problems that have not been corrected, such as road work or the dilapidating housing stock. While council has every right to make this type of deal with city staff, there are other ways they could do more to assist those they serve — the residents.

Some of those suggestions for those funds include: support public health response; respond to economic harms to workers, families, small businesses, and nonprofits or impacted industries.

Everyone suffered in the pandemic. Others even stepped up. Dunkirk city workers, we note, did an outstanding job. But for now, no other municipality is taking this action in Chautauqua County.

Council has every right to take this action, as noted in the federal guidelines. But if they include themselves in this piece of the pie, it will look awfully self serving.

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