Chula Vista Lays Off 350 Part-Time Workers ‘To Stop The Bleeding’
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Photo by Mike Damron
Chula Vista laid off 350 part-time and seasonal employees late last month, as the social distancing measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus have taken their toll on local tax revenues.
Most of the impacted employees worked in the city's libraries, parks and rec centers, all of which have been closed since mid-March. About 100 of those who were laid off had not worked any hours in 2020, according to Courtney Chase, the city's human resources director, while the rest worked an average of about 12.5 hours per week.
The layoffs, which took place on March 27 and were first reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune on Tuesday, might not last beyond the coronavirus-mandated shutdowns of public spaces.
"We have a streamlined process to bring (the laid-off employees) back on board once services resume," Chase said.
Chula Vista may be in a slightly better position to weather the economic crisis than other cities in San Diego County. Voters approved two increases to the city's sales tax in recent years to fund infrastructure improvements and public safety staffing. Not all of those additional revenues have been spent, meaning the city could potentially reallocate the money to maintain its baseline service levels.
"It provides more flexibility," said Chula Vista Finance Director David Bilby. "But those two taxes, Measure P and Measure A, were issued for very specific purposes. And it would be a council decision, a policy decision, on whether we deviated from that at all in accordance with an emergency environment like we're dealing with now."
Bilby added that Chula Vista had been building up an "economic uncertainty reserve" totaling almost $7 million that the council could use in addition to the city's operating reserves. Still, depending on how long city services are disrupted, the council may also be advised to consider laying off or furloughing other employees, he said.
"The layoffs of those hourly people — that was another technique to try to stop the bleeding and just slow (spending) down a little bit," he said. "But there's still salaried people and full-time benefited people that work for the city that are getting paid right now that aren't able to do their normal jobs."
Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Padilla, who is recovering from COVID-19, said the pandemic's economic toll was hitting everyone.
"That's not just hard on... the private sector, it's hard on the public sector as well," he said. "But we're going to do our best to be as supportive as we can be of everyone who serves."
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