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November 01, 2021

Pennsylvania offers new COVID-19 vaccine incentive to state workers

With about two-thirds of state employees again working in person, officials are seeking to boost inoculation rates

Pennsylvania state employees are being offered five days of paid time off for being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of the year. 

The so-called "verification leave" can be taken between Dec. 20 and March 31, the Office of Administration said Monday. Employees will receive payment for any unused days. 

Workers who are already fully vaccinated automatically will receive the additional time off, too. The paid leave program will be available to about 72,000 state workers. 

Pennsylvania also is extending its unused COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave program through June. The program gives state workers 10 days to be used if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or vaccine side effects. They also can use the time to care for someone who has contracted the coronavirus.

Pennsylvania's latest effort to increase COVID-19 vaccine rates among its workers comes as roughly two-thirds of state employees have returned to working in-person amid the pandemic.

"As one of the largest employers in Pennsylvania, we want to make sure our workers have the resources they need to be safe and healthy and be an example to other businesses to follow," Secretary of Administration Michael Newsome said

"This new paid leave package is designed to continue supporting our employees during this pandemic, while also helping to end it. By encouraging commonwealth employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine and stay home if they are sick, we are increasing the safety of our workplaces, as well as our communities."

In August, Gov. Tom Wolf offered a paid day off to all employees who were fully vaccinated. The original paid leave incentive took effect at the start of October.

Pennsylvania also incorporated a "vaccine or test" mandate for its 25,000 employees in health care and congregate care settings. Workers in hospitals, correctional facilities and community health centers must be fully vaccinated or face weekly COVID-19 testing.

Almost 65% of Pennsylvania's eligible population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, and close to 59% are fully vaccinated, according to the state's COVID-19 dashboard. More than 71% of Pennsylvania adults are fully vaccinated. 

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