Updated Aug 20, 2020, 12:16am EDT
The head of New York City’s emergency medical services union said Wednesday the city was planning to lay off hundreds of first responders as Mayor Bill de Blasio attempts to deal with the city’s growing budget crisis amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Oren Barzilay, president of FDNY EMS Local 2507, told the New York Post that around 10% of the city’s 3,700 EMTs and paramedics could lose their jobs as part of de Blasio’s plan to lay off 22,000 public workers due to the pandemic. “The response times will go through the roof. That would put people at risk. People will die,” he told the Post.
The city’s EMTs and paramedics responded to a record number of calls at the height of the pandemic in late March and early April, around 6,500 a day. De Blasio’s executive budget, which took effect on July 1, includes $1 billion in cuts from labor unions—if the unions can’t find a way to come up with the savings, he will be forced to move ahead with the layoffs.
De Blasio was hoping a federal bailout or a loan from the state would help fund the city government, which has lost around $9 billion in tax revenue since the pandemic began, but he admitted last week that neither was likely. New York City hasn’t seen municipal layoffs since 2012, when close to 1,000 city workers lost their jobs. In the 1970s, when the city was close to bankruptcy, the government workforce dropped by 45,000 employees, roughly 20%. There are currently over 300,000 people on the city’s payroll.
The New York City Police Department, which has a $6 billion budget, won’t be asked to lay off personnel, though they will be responsible for cutting other areas.