Local Governments Plan on Layoffs and Furloughs as Tourism Dries Up Amid Pandemic

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Stay at home orders are the public health prescription to fight COVID-19. The side effects of those will soon lead to layoffs and furloughs in South Florida local governments. The budgets of major tourism destinations will see it first. 

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber announced cost-cutting measures Friday on a COVID-19 video update. The City of Miami Beach budget plans to hemorrhage $3 million a week in tax dollars city officials planned to offset by hotel and tourism taxes. 

Miami Beach’s population is only 95,000, but it’s usually one of the engines of the South Florida economy, with its iconic South Beach and yearly festivals.

Not this year. 

The city will begin furloughs, layoffs, ceasing overtime pay and implement a hiring freeze. 

“Cities aren’t objects. They’re a collection almost entirely of other people,” said Mayor Gelber.

The city plans on furloughing - working for a period of time without pay - 35 staff members in the parking department, constitutional officers and parts of the executive staff - including the city manager. 

Around 250 ambassadors, part-time staff, park and beach workers will get laid off.

“We use them when we need them. And we just don’t need anything right now. So I feel for them, but you can’t really pay a part time worker who you don’t have part time work for,” said Gelber. 

Essential functions like police, fire and EMS will not be cut in Miami Beach at this time. 

The city does have $95 million in two reserve accounts, or “rainy day funds.”

Mayor Gelber plans to use $10 to $20 million in the months ahead but doesn’t want to go further because of the upcoming hurricane season - which brings its own challenges on the city’s budget. 

It’s not just a Miami Beach issue. In 2017, according to one analysis, tourism taxes brought in $11.4 billion in state and local taxes. 

Monroe County - home to the Florida Keys - announced this week it will plan to furlough thirty to one hundred of its county staff. The area has also completely shut out non-essential outside business.

That could be around one out of six county workers. They’ll finalize the plans in the week ahead. 

So will Miami Beach on their April 17th finance committee meeting. 

Most of South Florida’s cities will not get direct aid from Washington D.C.’s latest bailout package. The largest package can only go to cities with more than half a million people.

Far more than any city in the keys, and nearly all of the cities in Miami-Dade and Broward. 

"Figuring out what’s next, I think that’s the massive question mark casting a shadow over all of our communities,” said Gelber. "How do we get back and how does the hospitality industry get back to its vibrant and vital self.” 

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