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City of Wichita furloughs roughly 300+ employees

Coronavirus in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Furloughs for some workers with the City of Wichita began Friday for roughly 300 employees.

“The impact of COVID-19 is across the city,” said city council member Cindy Claycomb. “This is certainly not an easy decision for us, and city workers are family, but we have to be responsible with taxpayer dollars.”

Claycomb says the workers were put on furlough Friday and will continue that status until April 23. Those workers can still use their vacation, sick and other paid leave time to get full paychecks.

Claycomb says those workers on furlough are generally not able to do their work from home.

“So they can use their leave,” added Claycomb. “Also, employees that would like can donate some of their vacation time or leave time to a shared leave pool for those who don’t have the leave time they need.”

Claycomb says the city has been pleased with the response of people donating to the shared leave pool so that furloughed workers can continue to get full paychecks.

“We know many city workers, as we do, consider this a family operation,” said Claycomb. “Even though we are a fairly large organization, it feels like family to so many.”

There will be approximately 300 City employees furloughed for 30 days.

“Thankfully, employees should still receive paychecks through this time for three reasons. First, they will receive 80 hours of administrative leave, consistent with Federal legislation,” said Claycomb. “Second, they will be allowed to use all of their accrued leave, including sick leave. And third, many non-furloughed employees are dedicating their vacation time to ensure their colleagues do not have any gaps in leave. This is a great testimony to the type of people that work for the City.”

“But we are now just about $26,000 away from employees donating enough into the leave pool to cover those on furlough to get their regular paychecks,” said Claycomb. “And this should all be covered by next week. This does not surprise me that people are doing (donating leave time) this. This is Wichita.”

Claycomb says those not on furlough will continue working as essential workers. Those on furlough have all been notified by official city emails.

The following is a copy of the letter from The City Managers Office to city employees:

Employee Update on Furloughs

As you are well aware, the coronavirus pandemic event continues to unfold and is presenting a range of difficult, unprecedented challenges for Wichita residents and businesses as well as for the important city services and facilities we maintain. We recognize the financial stress on many families and businesses in our community is enormous. We also know that those same economic forces are demanding the City strike the right balance between the critical services we are able to provide and the workforce that provides them.

In response to the County’s stay-at-home order and to significant budget challenges, the City is implementing an immediate hiring freeze and a temporary furlough for a limited number of full-time and part-time City positions that are unable to perform work remotely. The furlough will be in effect beginning March 28, 2020 through April 23, 2020. However, the City is providing a paid day off for those furloughed positions on Friday, April 24, 2020. It is our intention that we’ll all be back to work soon but the City may have to extend the furlough as events demand.

Supervisors will speak with furloughed employees directly to help explain the process and provide access to resources to assist with questions about their benefits and unemployment options. We will also post an FAQ about the furlough to the portal.

We recognize and appreciate the need to minimize the financial disruption for these employees. To that end, the City will offer the following:

– Furloughed employees are entitled to use all their outstanding vacation, personal and sick leave to maintain their current pay during the furlough period. If this leave time is exhausted, the City’s shared leave program will be available as an additional resource. Under this program, employees may donate a portion of their vacation leave to a pool for distribution to other employees in need.

– For the next 30 days, HR is also allowing direct vacation leave transfers from one employee to another. There will be a link to an online form on the portal for employees to share their leave with those affected employees.

– The City will continue to maintain its contributions to furloughed employees’ health insurance and retirement during this event. If an employee experiences difficulty in making the required 20% health insurance contribution, the City will advance that amount and a repayment plan will be worked out a case by case basis.

These are trying times for every Wichitan – but especially for those having to directly deal with the financial strain this pandemic has caused. We urge everyone to do what they can to assist their fellow employees with compassion, empathy and with whatever resources possible.

If you are able, donating some of your accrued vacation time to fellow employees to help them through this difficult time would be a tremendous gesture of camaraderie and greatly appreciated. In fact, with contributions of shared leave already donated from some departments, we need just over $26,000 of additional shared leave time to maintain all employees’ pay disrupted by the furlough.

We will get through this challenge and emerge a stronger city and a stronger City team continuing to ably provide the essential services Wichitans have come to expect from us.

In the meantime, thank you for your continued hard work and service to the City. Please practice all the recommended preventative recommendations to avoid the virus and stay healthy.

We encourage you to check the employee portal and Wichita.gov/coronavirus for updates, sick leave guidance and other employee resources.

Wichita City Managers Office

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