The Hennepin County Board on Tuesday again delayed a vote to approve Juneteenth as a paid holiday for its 9,000 employees.
Commissioners remained split between recognizing a day of importance to the Black community and the $2 million cost of adding another paid holiday to the county calendar.
Commissioner Debbie Goettel, one of three who were sponsoring the holiday measure, proposed a compromise allowing county workers to take the day off as paid leave.
“In a perfect world, with no economic downturn, it would be easier to make this a holiday,” she said. “But we have a $40 million budget gap this year. If we add another $2 million, I really have to sit back and think about it.”
Goettel added that the county might have to consider layoffs to balance the budget and that “some of those people would be the employees we are trying to honor with Juneteenth.”
Commissioner Angela Conley, the board’s lone Black member, argued strongly that the board should fund the holiday. She noted July 4 is a paid holiday even though Black Americans did not achieve independence in 1776.
The board now is scheduled to vote on the measure Aug. 11.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day Texas slaves found out they were free following the end of the Civil War. Minnesota has one of the largest Juneteenth celebrations in the United States.
Commissioners Mike Opat and Jeff Johnson both agreed it was appropriate to recognize Juneteenth, but said adding to this year’s budget wasn’t prudent. Board Chairwoman Marion Greene said having discussions about the holiday helps center the conversation for communities of color.
In other action Tuesday, the board unanimously approved $2.3 million in federal funds for a public information campaign to educate residents and influence behaviors to combat COVID-19. It will focus on expanded translation and interpreter services for Hispanic patients testing positive for the virus in hospitals and clinics.
Officials said disparities continue in the number of Blacks and Hispanics contracting the virus.