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In Blue States and Red, Pandemic Upends Public Services and Jobs

  • December 04, 2020

“This is one of the things that keeps me up at night,” Mr. Fowler said, thinking about the impact on the city’s half a million residents. Such cuts could end up closing one or two police stations, even though crime is rising, he said.

Emergency response times are already slow, Mr. Fowler said, so even though he lives near a hospital, “if I have a heart attack, I’ll just crawl over there.”

From collecting garbage to issuing building permits, maintaining parks to fixing potholes, “everything’s going to slow down because we’re not going to have the people to do it,” he explained. A traffic study of a street in his district with a heavy accident toll has been delayed.

In New Orleans, Democratic city leaders are going through a similarly painful process, shrinking next fiscal year’s general fund by $92 million, down to $634 million.

To avoid layoffs, the city is cutting the pay of higher-level employees by 10 percent and requiring most other employees, including police officers, firefighters and emergency responders, to take 26 unpaid furlough days — one every two weeks — next year. The move amounts to a 10 percent pay cut, and comes on top of six furlough days imposed on the city’s roughly 4,000 employees through the end of this year.

On any given day, that will mean fewer people available to drive buses, respond to emergency calls or pick up trash.

“We are at the marrow,” said Gilbert Montaño, the city’s chief administrative officer. Every agency on average took a 21 percent cut on top of what they were already facing.

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