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Monroe County Looks To Start Cutting Costs By Putting Staff On Furlough

Andy Newman
Florida Keys News Service
Employees hang out at the closed Morada Bay restaurant in Islamorada after the Keys were closed to visitors March 22.

In Monroe County, tourism provides the primary source of jobs and sales tax revenues. So the county has been hit hard as coronavirus shut down all travel. On Tuesday, the county announced plans to start cutting its payroll.

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Between 30 and 100 employees will be furloughed or partially furloughed, according to County Administrator Roman Gastesi. Calculations of savings are based on the furloughs lasting through the end of July, the same time period as federal coronavirus benefits.

"At 30 positions, it's about $500,000 for the 16-week period. At 100 positions, it's about $1.7 million for that 16-week period," he said.

People who work full time from home will still get their regular pay. And those who have to leave their homes, like fire-rescue, public works and social service providers, will get time and a half.

"It's almost like a hazard pay, if you have to leave your house during a directive to stay home. So we feel it's fair to pay those employees that have to go out there, and frankly risk more than the other employees, they should be treated differently," Gastesi said.

Monroe County has about 565 full-time employees and a $200 million annual operating budget. The county has already started a hiring freeze, purchasing freeze and is postponing capital projects that are not underway.

Everyone would keep their health insurance, and those furloughed would not have to pay premiums. The furloughs need approval from the Monroe County Commission, which meets April 15.

Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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