Ninety-one part-time municipal workers in Newton have been furloughed from their jobs as the city deals with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said in a statement April 24.
The affected part-time employees who were no longer working due to the closure of city programs, services, or functions because of COVID-19 are being furloughed, Fuller told city councilors in a letter last week.
The vast majority of workers affected are with the city’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Department, as well as at the Newton Free Library, according to spokeswoman Ellen Ishkanian.
In her statement, Fuller said she made the decision after a “significant assessment.”
“This is so difficult as we value our part-time employees as critical members of the City of Newton team,” Fuller said in a separate statement. “While the future is uncertain, we are hopeful that we will be reopening activities and functions and welcoming these staff back to employment with the City.”
Beginning on March 24, Fuller said the city began shifting employees in order to keep them physically distant whenever possible, she said in the letter.
Some employees simply stopped working when programs were canceled. In those cases, the city extended pay for affected workers through April 19, Fuller said.
“We made that commitment because of how much we value our employees and their contributions to the City,” Fuller said, plus it gave the city time to understand the federal CARES Act, which Congress passed as part of economic aid efforts during the public health crisis.
The furloughed employees were placed on “standby status” effective April 20, she said, and may apply for unemployment compensation through the state’s Department of Unemployment Assistance.
Workers placed on that status due to COVID-19 will be approved for benefits more quickly, Fuller said in the letter, “and do not need to do the traditional work search activities that unemployment assistance typically requires.”
Newton’s Human Resources Department has provided background information on applying for unemployment compensation, and the city is “committed" to helping staff as much as possible, Fuller said.
Fuller said the city will provide an update to affected workers about their furloughs no later than June 14.
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.