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County Considers Fund or Subsidy to Aid Employees Called to War

January 23, 1991|JANE HULSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

County officials are considering setting up an emergency fund or subsidy program to help the families of county employees called to active duty in the Persian Gulf War.

New Supervisors Vicky Howard and Maria VanderKolk proposed differing forms of aid Tuesday for the nine county employees already called up for service and others who might go.

The issue will be discussed formally by the board in two weeks.

Howard suggested that the county set up an emergency fund, financed by county employees on a voluntary payroll deduction basis.

She said she would donate to such a fund from her next paycheck, which will also be her first as a supervisor.

"This is an unexpected emergency," Howard said. "You can't expect someone going into battle to have to worry about a house payment."

Once called to active duty, reservists temporarily lose their county salaries and benefits and instead receive military pay and benefits, which are considerably lower.

VanderKolk proposed that the county supplement the soldiers' military pay so that it equals the county salary.

Health, dental and other benefits should also be continued, she said.

"It's a time of war," she said. "We should all be sacrificing."

She said state employees called up for military duty receive a supplemental payment for five months.

The proposals for aid followed a letter from the Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs Assn. asking that reservists called to active duty be given financial help.

There are 20 reservists in the association, said Gary E. White, president of the 650-member organization.

Five have already been called into active service and 12 more are likely to go, he said.

White asked that the supervisors make up the difference between the county and military pay for three months while the reservists are away.

Similar aid is being given to reservists in San Mateo County, he said.

"This is not a war issue," he said. "This is a reality issue. Certain people have been called. It's likely to present a real financial challenge."

He said military pay doesn't come close to paying for housing, food and clothing.

The shortfall for those deputies called is $1,000 to $1,500 a month, he said.

Ron Komers, county personnel director, said it would cost about $7,000 to $8,000 a month to supplement the pay of the nine county workers already called to active duty.

He said he did not know how many other county employees might be subject to call.

State law requires the county to provide 30 days pay to service personnel, he said.

Their jobs await them upon their return, but if they wish to continue receiving county benefits during their absence, they must pay the premiums themselves, he said.

Komers said he will analyze the various aid options and report to the supervisors in two weeks.

He said one concern is the length of the war and how long the county might be under financial obligation to the soldiers.

Another is the possibility of a draft, which might further obligate the county if more employees are called, he said.

Howard said those concerns bothered her, too, if VanderKolk's suggestion is put into action.

"This is a serious budget consideration," she said, noting that the supervisors have already asked for a 3% cut in the present budget.

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