Easing the burden that comes with being called to service
StoryIn advance of Veterans Day, the Metropolitan King County Council acted today to ensure all King County employees who are members of the National Guard or Reserves and are called to active military service receive full benefits and a stable income stream during their tour of duty. The Council approved an ordinance, introduced by Councilmembers Bob Ferguson and Joe McDermott, and developed in collaboration with County Executive Dow Constantine, which expands current County policy to cover all King County employees on active duty.
For some County employees, being called to active duty means taking a pay cut because their salary while serving in the military is less than their County compensation. This can be particularly challenging for service men and women who are the only wage earner in the household. The U.S. Department of Defense estimates that thousands of military families live in poverty and that 40 percent of lower ranked soldiers face “substantial financial difficulties.”
Under the new legislation, King County employees who are called to active duty and whose military pay is less than their county wage, are eligible to receive “military leave differential pay,” providing income stability for these military families. These employees will also continue to receive the full set of health and other benefits as well.
“Individuals who answer the call to serve our nation deserve our appreciation and support,” said Councilmember Ferguson, prime sponsor of the ordinance. “County employees and their families should not bear the burden of being forced to make do with less, while also worrying about their own or a loved one’s safety overseas.”
“The positive effect this measure will have on the families of active service members outweighs its small fiscal impact,” said Councilmember McDermott, member of the Council’s Budget Leadership Team. “Helping to provide some financial stability to these families is just a small token of the County’s appreciation for their service.”
“I am pleased that this legislation will allow us to do all that we can to support those who serve our country,” said Executive Constantine. “I thank our employees who are devoted to public service, through both King County government and the military.”
The ordinance codifies an existing County policy that was put into place by Executive Order shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. That policy, however, only applied to County employees who were in the military on or before those attacks. The ordinance adopted today extends the benefit to all County employees, regardless of when they signed up to serve in the military.
The ordinance also updates provisions of existing King County Code related to employees receiving benefits while serving on active military duty to include all benefits provided by the County.
In 2010, 29 County employees were on leave because of active military duty.