City layoffs now off the chopping block for now

Cyril Josh Barker | 7/2/2020, midnight
Thousands of city employees are breathing a sigh of relief after their jobs were saved in the city’s annual budget.
Mayor Bill de Blasio Facebook

Thousands of city employees are breathing a sigh of relief after their jobs were saved in the city’s annual budget. However, the possibility still looms that 22,000 city workers could lose their jobs in the fall.

The COVID-19 pandemic is proving to have an adverse impact on the economy including massive layoff across the board. De Blasio said during a press conference last week that the city was running out of money due to the COVID-19 crisis and that this could result in the laying off of city workers.

“There’s just no way in hell we’re going to get a lot of new revenue immediately,” he said last week. “So we’re at the point where we have to––we have to deal with reality, but we would do it with a time delay.”

De Blasio added that money was needed from the state in the form of long-term borrowing that would have been put in the budget.

“Every agency will experience layoffs,” he said. “A lot of people will lose their livelihood. I don’t want to see that, a lot of city services we depend on will be gone. But we would have no choice unless some immediate help comes. We would time that for the fall, so that if stimulus money came in the meantime, we could do something with that. But if it doesn’t come, there’s no guarantee of the stimulus at this point.”

This week, the city council approved the city’s annual budget, which includes $1 billion in labor savings. The budget was initially going to be $95.3 billion but was cut to $88.1 billion. The Mayor said he’s working with labor unions to avoid layoffs in October by finding the money.

“I want to be very clear, we’re going to get to work with our labor unions to find that billion dollars,” he said. “We’re going to keep working on trying to get that stimulus in Washington, that borrowing authority in Albany. But if we cannot find a way, then October 1st looms as the day we would have to put into effect layoffs.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is calling for Albany to allow the city to engage in long-term borrowing to address the economic devastation of the COVID-19 crisis. He says drastic cuts to city services could do more damage to the city’s economic future.

“There are cuts that can and must be made, but the best path forward for investing in our city is to employ long-term borrowing,” Williams said. “This is a fiscally-sound and clearly-necessary strategy to meet the current economic crisis without further irreparable damage to vital programs and the New Yorkers who rely on them.”

Williams is also recommending a full hiring freeze for the NYPD to free up the $1 billion. He notes that every other city agency is already on a hiring freeze and that halting new hires to the

NYPD could also help with police reform.

“Progress cannot end on July 1,” he said. “New Yorkers will not be content with low hanging fruit, when what’s needed is to uproot the tree.”