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Baltimore lays off 48 employees as city budget feels effects of coronavirus

Baltimore officials have laid off four dozen city employees as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hammer the local economy.

Forty-eight workers received a layoff notice last month, a city spokesman said Monday. Eliminating those jobs saves about $2 million.

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Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s administration in April presented union leaders with three options to help close a projected budget shortfall: freeze salaries, meaning employees would forgo previously negotiated raises; furlough workers; or face layoffs.

Spokesman James Bentley said Monday that the city would still like to come to an agreement with labor leaders that reverses this round of layoffs, which went into effect Aug. 1.

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Sixteen members of AFSCME 44 received a layoff notice, along with 32 members of the City Union of Baltimore. Affected jobs include laborers, traffic enforcement officers, call takers and administrative staff, Bentley said.

So far, budget officials say, one group representing city employees has agreed to accept furloughs. Roughly 1,500 employees — including administrators, IT specialists and attorneys — will be furloughed for up to six days under a plan agreed upon by members of the Managerial and Professional Society of Baltimore Inc.

But other unions have balked at any proposal to cut personnel costs, arguing that city workers are on the front lines of this pandemic and shouldn’t have to give up pay on top of that sacrifice. Representatives of AFSCME 44 and City Union of Baltimore did not immediately respond to questions about the layoffs.

Baltimore’s revenue streams — especially those involving travel and tourism — have been crushed by the coronavirus and related restrictions. Budget director Bob Cenname provided an update to reporters Monday, saying he projects the city will end fiscal year 2020 with revenue at least $50 million below the budgeted estimate.

It will likely have to draw from its rainy day fund to end up with a balanced budget, he said.

Looking ahead to the next fiscal year, city budget officials say they’re still grappling with the uncertainty of how this pandemic will continue to play out.

The city reduced its 2021 revenue estimates by more than $100 million, in anticipation that restrictions would last through the end of September.

“This is probably going to last longer than that,” Cenname said.

Young has already moved to reinstate some restrictions as COVID-19 cases spike in Baltimore and around the state.

The city is also staring down long-term economic impacts of the coronavirus as more people lose their jobs.

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