NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – About 40 city employees in non-emergency departments such the Free Public Library and recreation department have been placed on furlough.
Not only will personnel in the youth services system and senior resource center be placed on temporary furlough, but another 200 or so employees who are described as seasonal hourly employees will also be affected.
“Basically, their hours have not yet been scheduled, so they are placed on no-pay status,” Mayor Jim Cahill told TAPinto New Brunswick on Friday.
The moves come as the city begins to feel the effect of a significant drop in revenue from the COVID-19 outbreak, Cahill said.
Although he said it would difficult to quantify which has made the biggest impact on the city’s economy, there’s lost revenue from people who would have otherwise come to the city to eat and shop, who would have come to see shows at the State Theatre and New Brunswick Performing Arts Center, who would have parked their cars in the Parking Authority’s decks.
Cahill said although there are some 3,000 Rutgers students on campus or living in off-campus apartments, the fact that tens of thousands of others are taking their courses remotely has also hurt business in the city.
On the flipside, many residents are feeling the economic pinch of having lost their jobs.
“And that runs from the bodega on the corner to the biggest businesses we have in town,” Cahill said.
The city personnel who have been furloughed worked in areas in which the facilities had been closed in response to the state’s ban on all public gatherings and non-essential activities.
Efforts were made by the city to arrange for any employee who has the capability to work from home and carry out their daily responsibilities remotely to do so and remain on the payroll, according to a press release from the mayor’s office.
Although many employees across several city departments and divisions have made the transition to the work-from-home model to help maintain social distancing requirements, not every work function can be carried out remotely.
The furloughed workers were notified by mail with letters from Cahill and City Administrator Daniel Torrisi.
Cahill also that furloughs were being explored in an effort to continue to provide essential services to cty residents and business owners, many of whom had lost their jobs, closed their businesses, or seen drastic loss in income, while making sure the City’s taxpayers get the services that they are paying for.
The mayor also mentioned those who would be furloughed would retain their seniority with the City and access to medical benefits.
Cahill also indicated the timing of the decision would allow furloughed employees to take advantage of recent changes to unemployment insurance laws that would assure that most workers would be receiving the same amount of income as they did before the furloughs.
“It just makes sense to save money now while these services are not being provided so we will have the funds to fill these positions when things get back up and running,” said Mayor Cahill. “By taking this action now, our goal is to avoid any permanent loss of employment while protecting the employees’ present income levels.”
In the accompanying letter from Torrisi, those furloughed were given specific details about when the furloughs would take effect, but also what to expect when the City determines the end of the furlough and the process for employees to return to work.
The remaining staff of each of these departments continues to reply to emails and phone calls, and assist with access to the online resources.