Hazard pay approved for Cobb transit employees

Community comments are invited at a 7 p.m. Oct. 23 hearing by the Cobb County Board of Commissioners in the BOC Room, second floor, 100 Cherokee St., Marietta about proposed changes to the CobbLinc bus system. A survey is available before Nov. 3 at LinkingCobb.org. Courtesy of Cobb County
Community comments are invited at a 7 p.m. Oct. 23 hearing by the Cobb County Board of Commissioners in the BOC Room, second floor, 100 Cherokee St., Marietta about proposed changes to the CobbLinc bus system. A survey is available before Nov. 3 at LinkingCobb.org. Courtesy of Cobb County

Hundreds of transit employees serving Cobb County commuters will get a little extra cash for their work during the coronavirus pandemic.

A one-time payment of $3,067 will be paid to 22 bus drivers who were placed on leave April 15-17 when CobbLinc limited operations during the early days of the pandemic. County spokesman Ross Cavitt said Cobb Department of Transportation will divide the funds up based on how much compensation the employees lost during that time.

About 253 employees who are required to work during the pandemic and face higher risk of exposure to coronavirus will also be given a one-time incentive of $500 per person. The personnel who will receive the payment include bus drivers, maintenance technicians, road supervisors and others.

Cobb County commissioners unanimously approved the proposal at its Aug. 25 meeting. Cobb County has a contract with First Transit, Inc. to provide operations, maintenance, and administrative services for its CobbLinc bus service.

Charlotte McCrae, a CobbLinc bus operator who spoke in favor of the payments, told county commissioners that transit workers often do their jobs in enclosed spaces and come in contact with many people, some of whom do not wear masks, which puts the drivers at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

“We then return back to our families with the hope of not compromising our very own homes,” she said. “But we keep showing up and we are going to keep showing up because that’s what we do.”

Three metro Atlanta transit workers have died from COVID-19. Two workers — one each with CobbLinc and MARTA — died in April and a Gwinnett bus operator died in July.

Transit agencies around the region have stepped up their efforts to protect employees and riders by providing masks, hand sanitizer and shields.

MARTA has also provided additional sick leave and $500 bonuses for workers. And agencies have blocked off seating and limited passengers on buses to protect workers and promote social distancing.

Gwinnett, for example, has limited boarding to 15 passengers on local buses and to 14 on commuter buses. And it has suspended fare collections to limit interaction between passengers and drivers.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter David Wickert contributed to this story.