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Cuyahoga County furloughing workers amid COVID-19 pandemic

Cuts come as county faces "financial crisis"
Cuyahoga County
Posted at 11:46 AM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 11:48:51-04

CLEVELAND, OH — Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said Friday that belt-tightening and furloughs announced last month will continue despite the county receiving $215 million in federal CARES Act grants.

Budish said that money must be used to pay expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic and cannot be used to plug a forecasted $76 million hole in the county's budget.

"It would be irresponsible to wait to start our money-saving moves," said Budish. "The cuts we're making are hard. They're very difficult. And they're painful, but I can tell you that for every month that we wait, the federal government does not give us more money or more flexibility, it'll just get harder and harder to fill our growing budget hole."

Last month, Cuyahoga County announced plans to furlough 4,600 workers in response to what's being called a "financial crisis" brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

"None of us want to do this," said County Executive Armond Budish. "This is the hardest part of this job is telling somebody that you've got to take two weeks unpaid."

Budish said administrators are in talks with the unions representing employees about the plan.

"If the unions won't agree to the two weeks of furloughs, we'll have to look at other things and probably layoffs at that point," he said.

The county hopes to spread the two weeks of unpaid leave across the next several months to lessen the impact on workers' paychecks. A county spokesperson said the furloughs will include Budish and other top administrators.

In addition, Budish said another 160 non-essential workers will either be reassigned to other jobs, or be placed on unpaid leave.

Other planned projects, including work to establish a lakefront trail across the northern part of the county have been put on hold and department directors were told to cut their budgets by 15%, Budish said. He projects county revenue could drop 70 to 80 million dollars as businesses remain closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We know it's bad," said Budish, "just look around you see all the shops closed, restaurants closed and that's where the sales tax comes from."

In addition, he said the county is losing money it would normally collect in hotel and admission taxes because of canceled events.

Budish also said additional cuts could be necessary as the county tries to balance the budget against the need to provide essential services to residents.

"Hopefully the steps we're taking will be sufficient," Budish said. "If not, we'll have to do something else because we don't print money."