MONTEREY, Calif. (KION)
UPDATE 4/29/2020 6 p.m. The City of Monterey approved the layoffs of 82 current employees at a meeting Wednesday evening.
The layoffs will go into effect on June 2. Their healthcare will be covered in June and July, but at this time it will not be covered after that.
The City Council said it will negotiate extending healthcare coverage for the employees over the next two months.
Kim Smith has worked for the Monterey Public Library for 14 years. She's also raised her daughter here. And she is one of the employees being laid off.
“Monterey is a really expensive place to live. Unemployment only pays so much money,” Smith said.
Smith went on to say that she hopes the council members are right when they call the layoffs temporary.
"Nobody else causes us to impose temporary layoffs but the pandemic,” Monterey City Manager Hans Uslar said.
If shelter-in-place orders last longer than expected, Smith might have to look for a job outside of California. Her daughter's father also lives in the area.
“I would love them to continue to have a relationship with each other," Smith said. "And if we had to move out of state, that’s just hugely complicated.”
Smith is also worried that the city said her healthcare coverage will end in July.
“Healthcare is a huge concern," Smith said. "You can’t have a little kid and not have healthcare.”
But council members made it clear that they'll look at options for extending that coverage.
“So I would ask our staff to look at other funding sources—it may have to come out of the parking fund,” City of Monterey Mayor Clyde Roberson said.
The city council said it was hard to cut these positions, but they didn't have a choice. They are losing about $3 million a month under shelter-in-place orders. And these layoffs will only save about $700,000 a month.
Despite dire numbers, several people voiced their hope and support for the library during the council meeting.
“I hope that, as time passes, everybody remembers that and the library will come back and be just as strong as it ever has been,” Smith said.
UPDATE 04/21/2020 11:52 p.m. The Monterey City Council has decided to delay its decision on staff layoffs until Wednesday, April 29 at 4 p.m. There will be another opportunity for public comment at that meeting.
PREVIOUS STORY: On Tuesday night, Monterey's city council considered staff layoffs and an economic stimulus plan.
But the city employees' union disagrees with the proposal to lay off more than 80 current employees.
“We don’t think it’s fair, we don’t think it’s right," Ryan Heron, a representative for the United Public Employees of California, said. "We don’t think it’s what the city should be doing right now.”
The proposal was an effort to fight a multi-million dollar projected deficit. It's the result of the shelter-in-place order that's lasting through the spring and approaching summer. But unions representing many of these soon-to-be out-of-work employees say it's too soon to be considering cuts.
“We have a healthy emergency fund that should be used," Laura Pratt, Chair of the General Employees of Monterey, said. "The government is coming out with new things all the time for COVID relief.”
The positions that could be cut are in places like the Conference Center, the Parks and Recreation Department, and the library. These locations are all closed under the shelter-in-place order.
“Certainly we will be looking at staffing costs," City of Monterey Finance Director Lauren Lai said. "As a service organization, there’s no way around this.”
City Council members said they hoped the layoffs would be temporary.
But this wasn't the only major proposal on Tuesday. The city council also looked at a stimulus plan providing direct payments to businesses and residents.
“Our revenue base has been devastated,” City Manager Hans Uslar said.
First, the City Local Economic Recovery Plan would use $1 million to bail out small businesses that are struggling so that they can avoid closing for good.
“The hospitality industry, has lost 85% of their revenues,” Uslar said.
The idea is that the city would work with the chamber of commerce to pick which businesses will benefit.
The second part--the Rent Payment Assistance Program--would invest more than $0.6 million for local workers who have been laid off from their jobs in Monterey. It'll use both federal and state funding to help them pay their rent.
The City of Monterey declared a fiscal emergency in October of 2019. With COVID-19, they said the situation has only gotten worse since then.