Trump Withholding Pay for NYC's Frontline Workers
NYC's essentials to be forced on unemployment
With over 187,000 cases and 20,000 dead from COVID-19 New York City has been the hardest hit area in the world. On the frontlines of the war have been nurses, transit workers, police, fire, EMS, and sanitation workers. While most of the country is praising these brave men and women, local elected officials are being forced to figure out ways to pay them.
According to New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, the COVID-19 crisis has created a $7.4 Billion deficit for the city. He is now saying that unless the federal government provides money for hard-hit cities and states, New York City will be forced to furlough or lay off some of these essential workers.
In an interview with CNN’s New Day, De Blasio said: “Right now what I’m staring down the barrel of, and cities and states all over the country, people are either acting on furloughs and layoffs or preparing for furloughs or layoffs of the exact people who have been the heroes in this crisis who we should be celebrating and supporting — first responders, the health care workers, the educators.”
While De Blasio hasn’t announced how many jobs he would need to cut to close the $7.4 billion gap, he did say that without the stimulus money, the economy will not be able to come back. New York City currently has the largest police force in the country. It is also the largest school district in the country, meaning that it employs the most teachers in the country. According to Marketwatch, there are 300,000 full-time employees who work for the city.
Of course, New York isn’t the only city facing a budget crunch due to COVID-19. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that 2,100 US cities are anticipating major budget shortfalls that will force them to cut staff and/or services. 600 of the cities say that they are anticipating layoffs and 1,000 cities are anticipating cuts to police departments or other public safety agencies. While the federal government has offered some assistance, including $150 billion in the last stimulus package, most states and cities can’t access the money. This is because the federal government put stipulations into it that says it only can be used for efforts to respond to the pandemic. This means that the money could be used to buy masks, but not to pay for a budget shortfall that is created by the city losing all tax revenue. It also wouldn’t cover things like having to pay overtime to police because nearly 20% of the NYPD is sick with COVID-19.
Both Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have said they have no interest in more stimulus to help cities and states close these budget deficits. As UCOMM previously reported McConnell has said that he would prefer municipalities to declare bankruptcy, putting not only teachers, firefighters, and police jobs at stake, but also putting their pensions at risk. In an interview last week with the NY Post, Trump said “I think Congress is inclined to do a lot of things but I don’t think they’re inclined to do bailouts. A bailout is different than, you know, reimbursing for the plague. It’s not fair to the Republicans because all the states that need help — they’re run by Democrats in every case. Florida is doing phenomenal, Texas is doing phenomenal, the Midwest is, you know, fantastic — very little debt.”
Both McConnell and Trump believe that the budget deficit issue is a partisan one, yet states and cities across the country are expecting massive deficits after the COVID-19 crisis is over. The Brookings Institute has published a study on cities that are expected to be the most affected economically by COVID-19 and 9 of the top 15 are located in Republican-run states. Texas is already anticipating that their $2.9 billion surplus will be wiped out and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen told agencies to begin cutting their budgets by 5%. Dallas has also furloughed 472 city employees until at least July to cover a budget shortfall.
Ultimately while Trump is taking his victory lap halfway through the pandemic, the essential workers who did the real work are once again going to be forced to sacrifice. EMT’s who were asked to run into a house to treat a patient who couldn’t breathe, teachers who reimagined education, and nurses at public hospitals will be the new victims of the partisan battle to punish the blue states and cities who voted against Trump and McConnell.