ANGOLA — Steuben County government recently adopted a policy that provides guaranteed paid sick pay in the event of COVID-19 infections among employees or their children.

The Steuben County Board of Commissioners recently approved a plan that will allow employees to be paid if they take sick leave to quarantine for COVID or to take care of a family member with COVID.

The leave will not be deducted from the employee’s accrued sick leave. Officials assumed the pay could be covered with COVID-19 monies the county has received from the federal America Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which was ushered in by Democrats in Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in April.

“I am for this because I don’t want our people coming to work sick,” said Commissioner Lynne Liechty. “This is the first time in my lifetime that we’ve had a pandemic. This is very different.”

“This has reached the level of pandemic,” said Alicia Walsh, administrator of the Steuben County Health Department.

Commissioner Ken Shelton, in discussion on Sept. 6, was against the measure, saying there were other illnesses that would not qualify and it was forcing people decisions on people.

“I just don’t like dictating people to use common sense,” said Shelton, who was the only commissioner to vote against the measure. “What considerations do we have for other illnesses?”

Erin Schiffili, the county’s human relations director, said leave for other illnesses when people are out of sick pay could be handled under the Family Medical Leave Act.

“Where do we draw the line,” Shelton asked.

Under COVID guidelines and state law, people must quarantine for up to 10 days if they have contacted the coronavirus.

By not allowing the leave, Schiffili said, people might forego testing and come to work, potentially causing an outbreak within the ranks of county government and the public that uses its services.

Commissioner President Wil Howard said the difference between COVID-19 and other illnesses is that the coronavirus is a highly contagious infectious disease that has proven deadly. As of Monday, 14,391 Hoosiers have died from COVID-19. In Steuben County 64 people have died from COVID-19.

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