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Furlough update and hope for economic recovery

Coronavirus in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – More business furloughs could be on the way, but at least one U.S. Congress member says social distancing is helping in this time of COVID-19.

“I’m still optimistic that a month from now more people are going to get back to work,” said U.S. Congressman Roger Marshall. “Well, we all have to look at everything. And I think it’s a crystal ball. How long are we going to be shut down in our work situations or not?”

For now, as many look at the bottom line, there are furloughs in place or furloughs on the way.

Sedgwick County Commissioners are expected to vote Wednesday on a move to furlough up to 150 county workers who are consider non-essential.

“That’s just a target number. It might be slightly above or below that number,” said Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell.

Howell says he talked to the county manager and says they already have about 100 volunteers to take at least four weeks off work. If the measure gets a yes vote, Howell says workers would get medical and still have a job to come back to after the furlough.

Some commissioners have said the concept of a furlough is all about the county budget six months down the road.

The City of Wichita has furloughs in place. City Council member James Clendenin on Monday said he is pleased with city workers donating leave time to a “pool” to help pay those on furlough.

USD 259 said on Monday it is not planning on doing furloughs. Also Wesley Medical and Ascension Via Christi both say they are not planning furloughs at this time in Wichita.

Wichita State University officials on Monday say WSU is not planning furloughs but is in a hiring freeze, and there are some measures in place to cut costs.

One economist says, while Spirit has laid off large numbers on the Boeing lines of work, we are in the middle of a so-called Black Swan event.

Black Swan events are when an unpredictable event causes a severe impact.

Jeremy Hill with the Center for Economic Development Business Research at Wichita State says a Black Swan event began with the 737 Max issues.

“For Kansas and Wichita, we had two events in a row. First the 737 Max. It came and it hit and there really wasn’t a way to forecast that risk,” said Hill. “And then you have the coronavirus so it’s a big hit on this economy trying to deal with two things. You can’t manage that risk. As a government, you can’t manage all the risk, and as a company, you can’t manage all the risk associated with it.”

Hill said because of the Black Swan event, there may be more furloughs on the way.

He also says much depends on the economy and when the economic wheels start moving faster again.

KSN reached out to several of the biggest employers in the area. We are waiting to hear back from them on furloughs and hiring practices.

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