The city of Fairbanks plans to use more than $290,000 of remaining federal pandemic relief funds on COVID-19 sick leave and overtime backfill, in order to protect city employees and continue providing essential services for the public.

“We must have dispatchers available to answer 911 calls, we must have medics, firefighters, and police officers that can respond to emergencies, and we must have public works employees available to keep our roads clear,” Teal Soden, the city’s communication director, wrote in an email to the News-Miner. “That is why it is absolutely necessary to have protections in place to keep employees that may have COVID-19 from possibly exposing several others in the workforce.”

The leftover money is from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, & Economic Security Act funds that the Fairbanks City Council already approved to be spent on city COVID-19 administrative costs, Soden wrote. Now that the federal government extended the period to use CARES funds for COVID-19-related expenses in 2021, the city is waiting for the corresponding amendment from the state to go with the plan.

Fairbanks City Mayor Jim Matherly presented the idea to the Finance Committee Monday to use the funds to continue offering leave for  employees who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis or those who have tested positive for the virus. The funds would be especially helpful for use in these areas because the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provided up to two weeks of sick leave to employees impacted by COVID-19, expired at the end of December.

Contact staff writer Alena Naiden at 459-7587. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMlocal.