Sacramento may pay COVID-infected workers $1000 to stay home

In their 2005 best-selling book Freakonomics, two authors explained how economics are a powerful incentive on human behavior. Now, in the midst of the pandemic, the city of Sacramento appear to be embracing the lessons of the book.

According to the Sacramento Bee, public health officials in the city are planning to pay workers who come down with Covid $1000 to stay home. The plan is aimed at workers at the lower end of the wage scale, and is intended to replace an hourly wage of $12.50 over two weeks.

The proposal acknowledges the terrible dilemma a low-income worker who contracts COVID may face: Either go into work sick and risk infecting other employees, or forgo a paycheck necessary to make rent or put food on the table.

“A major point is to make sure people have the resources they need to be able to isolate,” Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye told the Bee.

The proposed stipend may also be tied to a program to provide hotel rooms to those infected with COVID, a further measure to limit spread of infection.

Other California counties, including San Francisco and Alameda, are reportedly exploring similar programs to pay sick COVID workers to stay home.

An official from San Francisco said a crucial element of such programs is to work with local non-profit groups, and to ensure that potential recipients can be confident the money will arrive.

“Don’t over-bureaucratize this. The community is desperate. Deploy the resources,” said Joaquin Torres, San Francisco County’s director of workforce development.

As of August 25th, the state of California has reported over 680,000 cases of Covid and 12,416 deaths from the disease.

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