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City of Milwaukee to furlough hundreds of employees over coronavirus impact on budget

Posted at 2:26 PM, May 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-11 08:17:30-04

MILWAUKEE — The City of Milwaukee Common Council has approved plans to furlough roughly 260 employees and reduce hours for about 500 additional employees.

Some of the furloughs will begin as soon as Monday, May 11, according to Maria Monteagudo, Employee Relations Director for the City of Milwaukee.

The move comes as the city tries to cut expenses due to a loss in revenue amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

Milwaukee is now projected to lose roughly $26.5 Million in the next few months, according to Dennis Yaccarino, Milwaukee's Budget and Management Director due to less demand for city services.

Furloughs and hour reductions will not impact essential work done by police, fire, or health departments and many of the services provided by Department of Public Works will go unaffected.

Instead, employees who have been unable to work from home or preform their jobs amid the governor's "Safer-at-Home" order will be impacted. Many of the employees who will be affected work for Milwaukee Public Library, city parking enforcement and the municipal court. Building inspectors and transportation employees might also be impacted.

Under the plan, many of the employees furloughed make less than $50,000 per year. They will be able to apply for both state unemployment benefits and the extra $600 payments being offered by the Federal Government through the CARES Act.

The job cuts could last until the end of July, although some employees may be invited back to work as social distancing restrictions are lifted. Furloughs and hour reductions may also be extended if the Coronavirus does not go away and the benefits provided under the federal CARES Act are extended.

The CARES Act will also eventually reimburse the City of Milwaukee for all unemployment costs and this move will ultimately save the city roughly $3.3 Million, according to city leaders.

Alderwoman Chantia Lewis raised concerns about the plans during the Common Council discussion on Friday morning. She was concerned that the state's Department of Workforce Development might be too overwhelmed to process the city employee's unemployment filings in a timely manner.

"As it's been reported their systems are antiquated, as it's been reported we are at triple the number of people that are trying to get unemployment benefits," said Ald. Lewis.

The city insisted there are plans in place to help protect workers.

"Everybody has that concern about having that gap where employees are not receiving benefits and if we know for a fact that there an opportunity for that to happen there is the opportunity to recall employees back," said Monteagudo.

Monteagudo is now working to secure training from the Department of Workforce Development for city staff on how to best file for unemployment to help lessen the likelihood of errors and delays in payment.

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