Boulder announced Tuesday the city would furlough 737 municipal employees, including 175 standard and 562 seasonal and temporary workers, due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting mandatory business closures.
The last day of work for furloughed city staff will be Sunday, with unpaid administrative leave beginning Monday, a city news release said. The city will pay 100% of benefit-eligible employees’ health care insurance, for individuals and families, through the end of June. Decisions on recalling staff to active service, extending the furlough or layoffs will be made by June 1.
“Like many of our local companies, the city is facing very serious financial impacts as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” City Manager Jane Brautigam stated in the release. “We are significantly reducing non-personnel expenses and canceling or delaying capital improvement projects, but the reality is that the financial impact requires immediate furloughs and may require future layoffs. We are assessing the situation every day; my heart goes out to our employees who have dedicated their service to this community.”
Officials anticipate lost city revenues of at least $28 million, or nearly 10% of annual revenue excluding utility fees, since the stay-at-home orders went into effect last month.
Furloughs have already hit Broomfield staffers and private sector workers across the region.
So far, Longmont officials are not expecting furloughs to be necessary among city staff in that municipality, though they are projecting a $15.3 million revenue shortfall in the 2020 budget.
“We believe we can address the needed expenditure reductions through the use of fund balance, reserves, capital improvement project project savings and deferrals, the selective hiring freeze and expenditure controls,” Longmont staff stated in a memo to its City Council. “Thus, furloughs are not necessary at this time. If the revenue shortfalls exceed our current projections, meaning if the current ‘stay at home’ restriction is longer than two months resulting in severe tax shortfalls, additional expenditure reductions could be. Staff is already looking ahead toward that possibility and has identified further solutions.”
Boulder-based psychotherapist and Naropa University graduate Chris Davis encourages workers who have been furloughed or otherwise seen reduced pay or work since the virus struck to stay connected via phone and video calls with friends and family as a way to cope with the stress and anxiety of financial hardships being endured by households, businesses and governments across America.
“When we’re alone it’s easy to think it’s just us going through this, that we’re alone in our experience when the reality is that everyone in the community is going through this,” Davis said. “We’re communal people. My experience with people is we do better in community, so remember to nurture some of those connections.”
Looking forward to the future, and the world resuming normal functions, may be helpful, too.
“The human race has made it through quite a bit, absolutely we’re going to get through this,” Davis said.
Boulder officials will be continuously monitoring the financial and personnel effects of the virus that causes the potentially fatal COVID-19 illness, and changes to Boulder’s staffing may be required before June, the release said.
“This is an unprecedented situation,” Brautigam stated. “Unlike a natural disaster or past economic downturns, the duration of this crisis is unknown; the pandemic is impacting every community across the country. It is creating very real financial hardships for businesses and individuals, and there is incredible uncertainty about public health outcomes and our ability to get back to normal.”
Boulder’s furloughed employees were notified Tuesday, and may be eligible for unemployment benefits.
Through the record Congressional $2.2 trillion emergency relief package, the federal government is providing an additional $600 weekly in addition to regular unemployment insurance benefits. State unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 benefit are available at colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/covid-19-workers.
“It’s very sad, it’s hard, it’s not easy. Those people are like family, the city is an organization and an institution, and everyone is a part of it,” Boulder Councilwoman Junie Joseph said. “There are no words.”
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