Group Thanks Cities for Extra Pay for First Responders, But Haverhill Workers Say None So Far for Them

Members of the Haverhill Fire and Police Department Honor Guards at a 9/11 remembrance at the Water Street fire station. (WHAV News file photograph)

A statewide police labor group is thanking Haverhill, Methuen and Lawrence, among other communities, for setting aside a portion of American Rescue Plan Act money for premium pay for first responders.

Haverhill Firefighters Local 1011 President Timothy Carroll, however, told WHAV Wednesday the city has so far refused the extra pay for firefighters.

“We would like to see them do it, but he (Mayor James J. Fiorentini) said he wouldn’t give us any,” Carroll said. If Haverhill had acted as other communities that put up 2% of relief aid, he added, the city’s first responders would have received about $3,500 each. Carroll said the city pulled everything else off the table when the union endorsed former Council Vice President Colin F. LePage in his bid for mayor.

Likewise, Haverhill Police Patrolmen’s Association President Rick Welch told WHAV, he is unaware of any such payments coming to city first responders, but noted his union is still negotiating a COVID-19 impact bargaining agreement with the city.

The Massachusetts Coalition of Police said the federal aid delivered approximately $3 billion to cities and towns across Massachusetts, with a portion of it authorized for premium pay for first responders.

“The American Rescue Plan Act specifically recognized that first responders across all areas of emergency service played a crucial role in keeping communities safe during the historic COVID-19 public health crisis,” said MassCOP President Scott Hovsepian. “Cities and towns in every region of the Commonwealth have done the same and appropriated some of their federal ARPA funding to award premium pay for first responders: firefighters, EMTs, police officers, 911 dispatchers and other emergency personnel. This has not gone unnoticed by the men and women who protect our communities and our citizens each day.”

It counted the three Merrimack Valley cities among communities that, as of April 15, have “either already designated or are close to approving some portion of ARPA funding for first responder premium pay.”

MassCOP referred to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, reporting first responders were found to be twice as likely to contract COVID-19 as other essential workers.

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