Santa Clara County gives workers ‘Hero Pay’ bonuses, San Carlos is considering it

Oct. 6, 2021

Santa Clara County Supervisors vote to give their workers $2,500 ‘Hero Pay’ bonuses

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday (Oct. 5) to use $76 million in federal Covid relief funds to pay $2,500 “Hero Pay” bonuses to county employees for their work during the pandemic.

Nearly all 22,000 county employees will receive the bonuses regardless of whether they served the public face-to-face or did their jobs from home. The only county employees excluded from receiving bonuses that the county is calling “Hero Pay” are the five county supervisors, including Joe Simitian, and County Executive Jeff Smith.

That means high-up officials such as Sheriff Laurie Smith, District Attorney Jeff Rosen, County Assessor Larry Stone and Health Director Sara Cody will receive the $2,500 bonus. Those four made between $330,000 and $460,000 in total compensation during the 2019 fiscal year.

It’s a notion that made Supervisor Otto Lee uncomfortable and may explain his decision to abstain from the vote. Had he voted in favor, the Hero Pay would’ve passed unanimously.

“I have concerns about how this came about … I would not want to, as an elected official, vote for a $2,500 bonus for myself,” Lee said.

‘Overly generous’
“I think, for so many reasons, that the amount that has been provided here seems, I know it’s very generous, but in some ways, this is overly generous,” Lee said.

After Lee expressed reservations, Supervisor Cindy Chavez made an amendment to exclude the five county supervisors from getting bonus pay — a move supported by all county supervisors.

Lee also asked that County Executive Smith create a way for county employees to opt out of getting the Hero Pay for those who feel uncomfortable or not in need of receiving the $2,500.

Board president Mike Wassermann tried to extend the Hero Pay to Smith, because of his “Herculean” efforts during the pandemic, but Smith graciously refused to accept it.

As it stands now, full-time employees will receive $2,500 and part-time county employees will receive a pro-rated amount based on full-time equivalent status of part-time employees and the hours worked of extra help by the employee.

In-Home Supportive Services independent providers will get a $500 bonus from the county to augment the additional $500 they are getting from the state.

County more generous than others
Supervisor Susan Ellenberg noted that the $2,500 is double what other similarly populated counties are giving in Hero Pay.

Smith said the reason for the amount is because he felt it was in line with what supervisors wanted and joked that it was because the board is “twice as progressive.”

“We felt strongly that everyone in the county employed actually participated vigorously to the greatest extent possible in providing a response to the pandemic,” Smith said. “Therefore, we didn’t feel administratively that we could take a group or a particular job or particular activity and that was more deserving of a larger amount of money than any other.”

Smith also noted that the source of the funds, the American Rescue Plan Act, requires that some be used for Hero Pay, so providing these bonuses is in line with how the federal government envisioned these dollars being used.

“We’re just following through with the intention of the bill,” Smith said.

The county is also still deciding how to provide bonuses for the roughly 3,000 “extra help workers” who did not have a regular schedule and instead intermittently supported county efforts.

Extra help workers, often referred to as permanent intermittent workers, can be found in “pretty much all departments doing a wide variety of things,” including nurses, clerks, secretaries or social workers, Smith said.

“We still have to work out a formula,” the county executive continued. “We haven’t been able to come up with something we’ll agree upon.”

Smith said the county will still need to deliberate with several unions to ensure everyone is on board with the Hero Pay before the money is distributed in December.

Yesterday’s vote spends about $76 million out of the county’s first tranche of $187 million American Rescue Plan Act funding. The county is expected to receive its second tranche of $187 million in ARPA funds in May 2022.

San Carlos considers a form of ‘Hero Pay’

Oct. 8, 2021

Daily Post Staff Writer

San Carlos City Council on Monday (Oct. 11) will consider paying 70 city employees a one-time payment of $2,000 as “recognition pay” for the work they did during the pandemic, similar to the $2,500 in “Hero Pay” Santa Clara County’s Board of Supervisors approved this week.

The idea was suggested by Councilman Ron Collins at the council’s Aug. 23 meeting.

“Given the fact we have just survived, and are still surviving, a pandemic, our employees have worked many many Collins said during the Aug. 23 meeting when asking the other council members if they’d be in favor of discussing the issue.

Mayor Laura Parmer-Lohan, who is running for county supervisor next year, and Councilman John Dugan signed onto discussing the idea.

Collins got the idea after hearing about a similar program San Mateo’s City Council approved in August, where 414 city of San Mateo employees were given a payment of $2,000 if they worked from March 17, 2020 to May 30, 2020. The program cost San Mateo $879,314.


San Carlos’ pay will cost the city $150,586, according to a memo from City Manager Jeff Maltbie.

Maltbie’s memo to council says city employees “pivoted” from providing typical city services, such as running the Youth Center, library and having events in-person, to providing emergency response.

The city’s emergency response included running the city’s Emergency Operations Center, establishing a hotline and volunteer organization to support those in need and starting a food program, among other things, Maltbie’s memo says.

City employees have also “provided crucial and vital services throughout the pandemic,” including working on the Laurel and San Carlos Avenue street closures, maintaining sidewalks, parks and streets and moving meetings online.

Satisfactory or better evaluations

Maltbie recommends the city give the $2,000 in Hero Pay to people who worked a minimum of 20 hours per week and have a performance evaluation of satisfactory or higher.

Maltbie’s recommendation suggests employees who worked from home would be eligible for the bonus, though that wasn’t clear.

Those not eligible for the $2,000 bonus are: the city council, city manager, city attorney, police or firefighters. The city outsources the police to the county Sheriff’s Office and outsources fire to Redwood City.

If the council approves the hero pay, employees will see the bonus in their Nov. 12 paycheck.

Bonuses elsewhere

The city of San Mateo and Santa Clara County are the two other agencies that have approved such measures already. Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to award employees $2,500 in hero pay to its 22,000 employees. Those who won’t get the payment are the five supervisors and County Executive Jeff Smith.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Otto Lee abstained from voting on the Hero Pay, after saying the amount was “overly generous.”

When asked if San Mateo County would consider doing anything similar, Board President David Canepa pointed out that the county is in negotiations with its employees’ unions, and there are “many issues to be discussed, and that may be one of them.” But ultimately, Canepa said he’d be “a little uncomfortable” with spending that much money.


  1. I believe that our City of Oakland essential workers should be recognized for doing their jobs during this epidemic, it feels as if we are only essential when needed and not fully appreciated by management

  2. Hard to believe our supervisors, particularly Joe Simitian, are so tone deaf! The county, and the rest of the state, is struggling to recover from a recession. Times are tough, Joe. This is no time to hand out raises. Help the taxpayers who ultimately pay the county’s bills.

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