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With hazard pay taking effect Jan. 1, Portland council delays vote on ending state of emergency

The Portland City Council is delaying a vote on repealing the city's state of emergency until early January — when councilors could also consider adding a mask mandate.

At a meeting Monday night, city attorneys said that ending the emergency order would have a limited effect and would give the council more flexibility to hold in-person or remote meetings.

But some residents expressed concerns about the status of the city's hazard pay ordinance, which goes into effect on Jan. 1. It would raise the city's minimum wage to $19.50 during an emergency.

While some business owners said that they support the higher wage for frontline workers amid the latest COVID surge, restaurant owner Steve DiMillo said it would only harm business and raise prices.

"$19.50 is going to do nothing but maybe help businesses cut jobs. And I do believe, eventually, there's a limit to what someone will pay for a bowl of chowder and a beer," DiMillo said.

While some councilors signaled they would vote to end the emergency order, several — including April Fournier — argued that it was still too soon.

"Every day that we go into work on the front lines while this is surging, I absolutely believe we're in a state of emergency," she said. "And our workers deserve a hazard pay. So I am not supportive of lifting the emergency state at this time."

The council ultimately voted to postpone a vote on repealing the order until Jan. 3, and are poised to also consider additional health measures, including a mask mandate.