Coronavirus may force Milwaukee to furlough hundreds of employees

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Posted at 1:03 PM, May 06, 2020

MILWAUKEE — City of Milwaukee leaders are considering cutting hours and implementing hundreds of temporary furloughs in attempt to make up for some of the city's lost revenue amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The city is projected to lose about $26.5 million between March and August of 2020 because of the way the coronavirus is impacting the economy.

Under a new proposal, approximately 260 people would be furloughed, according to the city's budget and management director Dennis Yaccarino. Roughly 500 more employees would see their hours reduced.

During the coronavirus pandemic, city parking structures have been nearly empty, parking meters are not being used and there have been fewer citations and court fees issued. Additionally, demand is down for permits, inspections and other city services. All of these factors have resulted in the city making less money, and needing fewer employees.

"There are people who are home, unable to work, that continue to get paid," Maria Monteagudo, Milwaukee's Employee Relations Director, told the Finance and Personnel committee during a meeting on Wednesday. "What we are putting forward is the best effort of how to be responsible with the fiscal reality of the city, recognizing that we also have to strike a balance between that and how we do this and the impact on our employees and their families."

First responders and critical members of the Department of Public Works would likely be unaffected by the temporary job cuts.

"Fire, Police and Health, those are the front line response to the virus. We felt at this time it was difficult to look at them to make reductions and still provide a high-level of response," saud Yaccarino.

However, people who work for the Milwaukee Public Library, parking enforcers and many of Milwaukee's transportation employees would make up a large number of the employees who would be cut.

The employees impacted by the reduced hours and furloughs could take advantage of both state and federal resources, which would also provide relief to city finances.

"Those individuals can apply for the unemployment benefits that are provided by the State of Wisconsin and also apply for the benefits that have been provided by the Federal Government through the CARES Act," said Monteagudo.

The CARES Act, which grants federal funds to help communities bounce back from the economic hardships caused by the Coronavirus, would also help the city recover in this situation.

"The city will be able to recover the cost of the unemployment, the city will save the money associated with the payroll hours that are not worked," said Monteagudo.

Leaders say most employees would not lose income if they're able to access the benefits.

The proposal would help Milwaukee balance the need of taxpayers with the new fiscal reality.

The common council could make a decision on what next steps should be taken as soon as Friday during a special meeting.

If approved, the cuts could last until July and would save Milwaukee roughly $3.3 million.

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