Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio brought up the F-word: furloughs. Without massive federal aid, he warned, Gotham will have to “furlough and layoff … the exact people who have been the heroes in this crisis,” namely, “the first responders, the health-care workers.”
Hizzoner is making a threat here. But a responsible mayor and council would be using furloughs as a tool: transfer people who aren’t doing immediately essential work to the expanded federal safety net, starting, yes, with the Department of Education.
New York City employs nearly 335,000 people — and plans only 1,000 job cuts over the next six weeks. Even as the city asks for more federal aid, it isn’t using the federal aid Congress already provided through the CARES Act: expanded unemployment benefits that allow any single breadwinner who earns the average household income to have all of his or her income replaced for nine months.
This system has flaws, including swamped state unemployment systems. But it’s also a lifeline to millions of retailers, restaurants, arts institutions, museums and so forth, who can at least know, as they lay off staff temporarily, that their workers are protected.
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