COVID-19's impact on Houston: Up to 3k city workers face furloughs

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Houston mayor reveals COVID-19 impact on budget
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This is what Mayor Sylvester Turner said about COVID-19's impact on Houston's budget, including its affects on city workers.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Up to 3,000 City of Houston employees will face up to 10 days of furloughs, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said during an update on the city's budget Tuesday morning.

The mayor said the city is in a budgetary crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All furloughs will occur after July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, but will not affect the police and fire departments.

"We are presenting a budget that does balance, even in a very uncertain time. We are obligated to balance our books. We are doing that," Turner said, explaining the budget provides for overtime for police, three cadet classes for the fire department, funding for parks, libraries and trash pickups and upgrades to drainage and streets.

"It's the toughest budget we've had to put together since I've been mayor in January of 2016," Turner said.

Despite the furloughs, Turner said there will be no layoffs and that much of the budget involved personnel, adding it's hard to close the shortfall without any impact to employees.

The furloughs may not necessarily come as a surprise.

A week ago, the mayor addressed the possibility of furloughs after he was asked to elaborate on the remarks made by Mayor Pro-Tem Dave Martin in which he said the city will likely furlough all of its employees except for the police and fire departments to make up for the expected $200 million budget shortfall.

Last month, Turner briefly spoke about the city's budget deficit due to COVID-19. He said Houston's deficit would be between $170 and $200 million, including a sales tax reduction of $100 million.

"It would be the worst deficit that the city has faced," Turner said at the time. "This one will be worse than the city's deficit in 2016."

He also added that the city of Houston will not be able to use the U.S. Treasury Aid to fill the deficit.

Many Houstonians in the area have either been laid off or furloughed, particularly those working in the oil and gas industry, due to the economic hardships brought on by the pandemic.

In early April, Schlumberger told ABC13 it will be instituting furlough programs, modifying work schedules, and will voluntarily cut executive salaries by 20 percent.

That announcement came after Halliburton announced 1,000 employees would be laid off in Texas and Oklahoma.


Houston Schlumberger location furloughs employees and cuts executive salaries

1,000 employees laid off at Halliburton headquarters