BROOKLINE, MA — Some 196 town employees have been furloughed since March. The most recent round of temporary suspensions took effect this month, town officials said Friday night.
"This is a step we had long hoped to avoid, but the duration and seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic have required us to temporarily furlough members of our team," Town Administrator Kleckner said in a statement. "The unfortunate reality, however, is that there are no children walking to school that need help across the street. Libraries, the Senior Center and the Soule Pre-School are all closed, and recreation activities are canceled, meaning the people who make these programs and services run are unable to fulfill their traditional roles."
Brookline is one of a number of municipalities that have opted to temporarily suspend workers, who then are eligible to apply for unemployement. The number of Massachusetts residents applying for first-time unemployment benefits during the week that ended April 11 was 139,647, the following week the number was around 88,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor report. Between March 21 and April 16 Massachusetts has had 689,088 workers file for first-time unemployment benefits.
The furloughs mainly pertain to part-time employees whose facilities, services or programs have been curtailed as the town responds to the coronavirus health crisis. Part-time staff from the library, the police department's full-time parking enforcement and part-time school crossing guard personnel, as well as recreation department program staff were affected by the most recent furloughs.
Most of the employees had not been able to work, but were being paid, since early this spring, according to town officials.
The Recreation Department and Senior Center initially underwent furloughs in March, and those employees have been eligible for unemployment insurance benefits since then.
Furloughs are temporary layoffs. Staff who have been furloughed can keep their health insurance and will be guaranteed the opportunity to resume their roles, if and when circumstances allow them to.
To the extent possible, employees will be offered opportunities to perform other work to avoid furlough, according to Kleckner. Some employees have already been temporarily re-assigned to roles supporting either the Emergency Operations Center or the Town Clerk's Office ahead of the upcoming town election.
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