The Wuhan coronavirus pandemic has hit us all hard but in New York City, where businesses are still largely shuttered and millions are unemployed, the financial situation is in dire straits.
But just as people have lost income, their businesses, and even their homes, the government is also suffering after a flattened six-month period of no economy and slashed tax revenue. In fact, the city is looking at a staggering $9 billion gap between where they are and where they are supposed to be.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has been excoriated throughout the pandemic for mismanaging the crisis from the beginning. Despite the suffocation of the city economy and the jeopardy it puts the people of NYC in, the mayor has continued to throttle reopenings of small businesses despite the actions of the rest of the state and the recommendations of the CDC.
Now strapped with an insurmountable debt of his own making, de Blasio has asked the labor union leaders in the city to come up with a way to save $1 billion in labor without being forced to lay off 22,000 workers. They haven't come up with a solution as of yet. But in order to avoid being castigated by the unions, who he depends on for political support, he is making a gesture ... at the expense of the more than 500 mayoral staffers.
On Wednesday de Blasio announced that all mayoral staff – including himself – will take a week of unpaid furlough between October and March in an effort to save the city a measly $1 million: a far cry from making an impact on the gaping $9 billion hole he has driven the city into.
BREAKING: De Blasio: Entire NYC mayor's office, including mayor himself, to be furloughed for a week in budget crisis.— Kambree (@KamVTV) September 16, 2020
For de Blasio, five days off won't mean too much- he is estimated to be worth $1.5 million with an annual salary paid by the people of New York that is north of $280K. But for his staff, who make paltry government salaries, an unpaid week off for de Blasio to make a meaningless sacrifice on the altar of labor unions is a huge financial blow.
The mayor's chief of staff Emma Wolfe said in an email to all 500 employees that the decision to cut funds directly from them to make a political gesture was due to "an enormous budget challenge in the middle of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression."
Wolfe also cited the continued push from de Blasio's office to get more long-term lending from Albany.
"This is a tough decision and we do not take this lightly," she said. "We will be constantly reassessing and further action may be needed if we receive no stimulus or long term borrowing. But we are doing all we can to prevent layoffs."
But staff didn't take the news as well as de Blasio likely hoped they would.
"Morale is bad," one City Hall employee said. "My morale is defunded."
Cutting hundreds of his own staff's living wages, however, probably had the appearance of a good-faith gesture, De Blasio said.
"We’re taking this action because it's the thing we have to do now," he said on Wednesday. "I certainly think it says to people that everyone is trying to do what they can, everyone is sacrificing in some way, let’s all work together."