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Phoenix public workers disappointed with vaccine priority, federal relief

(Facebook Photo/City of Phoenix Water Services Department)

PHOENIX — Some city of Phoenix employees wish Arizona would have prioritized them as essential workers for the COVID-19 vaccine, among other concerns in response from authorities to the pandemic.

“I do not get to work remotely,” said Lena Chacon Bernal, who has lost coworkers and family members to the virus. “I go into the office every day to answer the calls and dispatch people out to take care of our community.”

Chacon, a support service aide for Phoenix Water Services Department, understands the Arizona Department of Health Services made a tough choice to prioritize vaccinations for people age 55 and older, but thinks first and foremost “it should be the people that are working with our communities and going out there.”

In addition to concerns about receiving the vaccine, some of Phoenix’s public works employees worry about job security amid the pandemic’s financial effect on states and cities.

Jason Henley, an industrial mechanic for water services, hopes more federal relief funds will be approved to prevent layoffs.

“When states and cities are having to balance budgets and simply don’t have enough money, all of these important services — all of our jobs — could be on the chopping block,” Henley said, having also recently beat COVID-19.

“I’m disheartened to see that there are some in Congress who don’t think that funding public services, such as clean and safe water, is a top priority.”

Henley and Bernal took part in a conference call with Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Tucson Mayor Regina Romero to push the Senate to approve the American Rescue Plan — a $1.9-trillion successor to the CARES Act.

It could cover more rental, mortgage and utility assistance, as well as provide money for non-profit groups to give to Arizonans who are out of work due to the pandemic.

The Senate voted 51-50 on Thursday, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote, to begin debating the bill after it was previously approved by the House.

Republican senators claim the measure’s large price is ignoring promising signs that the pandemic and wounded economy are turning around.

Yet it is widely expected the Senate will approve the bill and the House will sign off on changes and send it to President Joe Biden to sign by mid-March.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

For Arizona vaccine information, visit azdhs.gov/findvaccine.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

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