Kansas City moves to expand hiring freeze, furlough city workers

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — City leaders are acting to expand a hiring freeze for municipal workers and furlough city employees for at least one week.

Some are concerned about the impact the cuts will have on low-wage service workers.

This is another result of the economic distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as tax collections have dropped drastically in Kansas City.

Budget cuts under consideration would require many city workers to take a week off without pay before the end of April 2021.

Police, firefighters and others covered by collective bargaining agreements would be exempt, as would municipal judges and elected officials.

Essential workers, who earn less than $20 an hour, may bear the brunt of the cuts. They are the people who pick up the trash, fix the streets and take care of KC parks.

“It’s unconscionable that these men and women, who have worked through the pandemic, did not have a day off,” said Michael Shaw, the city’s solid waste manager. “We’re now saying we’re going to freeze their pay and we’re not going to give them the things they need to be successful.”

Anyone earning $15 an hour or less would be exempt from the furlough, which is estimated to save the city $2.2 million.

Expanding the city’s hiring freeze to include most positions that make $15 an hour or more would save about $4.8 million.

Contact tracers and other pandemic related jobs paid for with federal aid also would be exempt.

City workers would be allowed to take their furlough by the hour, or one day at a time, spread over many weeks.

Finance Committee chair Katheryn Shields said that although her pay cannot be cut, she’s going to donate a portion of her city salary to charities that serve the poor.

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