– By Josh Durso
Ontario County is beginning the process of administering voluntary layoffs due to the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An email obtained by FingerLakes1.com outlines the ways in which the County is cutting costs. It starts with voluntary layoffs, and they will begin to address the approximate $24.3 million in revenue loss due to the pandemic.
The email to employees asks for any interested in ‘voluntary temporary layoff’ to submit an application for consideration. If approved, civil service status of the employee would not be impacted during the temporary layoff period. However, leave accruals will be frozen for use when they return.
The email is from County Administrator Brian Young, who said in it that mitigation efforts are underway. “The County’s estimated 2020 loss of revenue at this time is approximately $24.3 million and we are working on mitigation efforts that include a hiring freeze, abolishing vacant positions, reducing operational expenses, and adjusting the Capital Improvement Plan,” the email reads. “I have been working diligently with staff to develop cost saving measures to help the County weather this economic crisis.”
Young contends that these types of layoffs are happening across the state, and that participation in the program will not result in any employees or positions being targeted in the event of permanent layoffs.
The email contends that CSEA supports the temporary layoff plan, which breaks down like this:
– Voluntary layoff would begin May 18th continuing through July 31st. There would be 30-day review periods.
– All employees who participate will be recalled to work before August 1st, 2020.
– The layoffs are not permanent, and seniority is not considered in terms of possible inclusion or approval in the process.
– This program will be offered to all CSEA employees but all applications will be reviewed with the Department Head before the County Administrator makes any determination.
– Employees will continue to be covered through their County health insurance throughout the period.
By Friday afternoon, more information was sent out to employees highlighting the breakdown of potential benefits received via unemployment at the federal CARES Act.
The second email obtained by FingerLakes1.com was authored by Michele Smith, director of human services for Ontario County.
“The County and the CSEA have entered into an agreement, which is pending Board of Supervisor approval on May 7, 2020, to allow employees covered by the CSEA collective bargaining agreement (this includes union members and non-union employees) to apply for a voluntary, temporary layoff from May 18 through, potentially, July 31, 2020, with 30-day review periods,” Smith said in the email. ” This is a cost saving measure that many counties across the state are implementing in order to reduce costs. The County will save money by spending less for unemployment insurance benefits and many employees can make more on unemployment then they earn in wages because of the federal stimulus money that is provided to unemployment recipients.”
The email includes a chart, which breaks down how an employee making $55,000 per year, or $2,115 per pay period would receive $2,208 on unemployment during the temporary layoff. Those who make the least at the County – with salaries of $25,000 per year, or $962 per pay period – would make more than 40% more on unemployment – grossing $1,680 per period.
The email indicates that applications will begin being accepted immediately upon board approval on May 7th. “Please share this information with co-workers who you know are home, not working as they may be interested in this program too,” Smith concluded.
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