KEY POINTS

  • New York City is coping with a severe cash crunch threatening the jobs of 20,000 city employees
  • These city workers will lose their jobs Oct. 1 unless a last-minute solution can be found
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the city's finances 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is facing the grim possibility he might soon order the firing of more than 22,000 city employees by Oct. 1 because the city doesn't have the money to pay their salaries.

“The overwhelming cost of local government is personnel," he said Wednesday, adding that there won't be any job cuts among officers of the New York City Police Department (NYPD). "Where we put our money is into the people who provide services to New Yorkers, whether they’re first responders, health care workers, sanitation workers, educators, you name it."

“If you’re going to keep cutting and keep cutting, it has to at some point reach personnel. It’s just pure logic of budgets, and it’s very sad logic. I don’t like it one bit, and I want to avert this at all costs. So that 22,000 number is painfully real."

Escaping that harsh reality amid the COVID-19 crisis will require assistance that isn't likely to come from the federal government. The White House and the Republicans are opposed to bailing-out states and municipalities in financial distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Facing-up to this fact, de Blasio admitted the option of asking the Senate for a multi-billion dollar relief package “appears to be dead now.”

Unless the city can find another source of cash, de Blasio said authorities will have to implement “painfully real” plans to lay off 22,000 public workers on Oct. 1. City agencies are now identifying employees who will lose their jobs.

De Blasio has unsuccessfully asked state legislators for authority to borrow money to pay expenses. The city is also in tough talks with municipal labor unions on cuts that might save $1 billion in labor costs.

Financial experts said that should the unions dismiss the proposed fringe benefit cuts, it's unclear how New York can pay for its myriad of other expenses this fiscal year in the face of much lower tax collections and cuts in state aid. De Blasio had previously threatened mass layoffs in the fall if unions turn down the proposed fringe benefit cuts.

The COVID-19 pandemic has kept devastating the city's finances as it slashes much needed tax revenues. Since the pandemic began, New York has lost one-quarter of the city's private sector jobs while its lucrative tourism business has evaporated.

In November 2019, NYC expected to receive $128.9 billion in tax revenue across fiscal years 2019-2020 and 2020-2021. The latter began July 1.

Due to the pandemic's economic damage, the city now expects $120.7 billion in revenue across these two years, a 6.4% drop versus previous estimates. New York took in $61.3 billion in tax revenues in 2019 and expects $58.6 billion for FY 2020-2021, hence its current financial bind.

1599px-Bill_de_Blasio_(48609239838) Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the NYPD will scale back on enforcing social distancing and face masks rules. Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons