HONESDALE, PA — With greatly reduced workloads among various Wayne County departments and divisions, the Wayne County Commissioners announced on Thursday, April 16 that 77 government employees across 12 different departments have been furloughed.
"We are expecting all of these people to return to full duty," said chief financial officer Vicky Botjer, explaining why the county chose the term "furlough" rather than "lay off."
A full furlough extended to 33 full-time employees and 30 part-time employees; 14 full-time employees received a partial furlough. In total, commissioner Joe Adams said the decision affected about 20 percent of the county's workforce.
Commissioner Jocelyn Cramer said the guiding factor on who to furlough has been workload.
"In some cases, some of our departments are actually busier than they have been, in other cases it's absolutely dropped off because access to the public has dropped off," she said.
Due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, the commissioners did not provide a timeframe for when these employees would return to work. Depending on what happens at the state and federal levels, more employees may be furloughed in the future, but some may be able to come back to work sooner than others.
"Right now surveyors are unable to work... our planning department is still doing some work but they do see a reduction in work," chairman Brian Smith said. "But the surveyors association has a waiver in and if the waiver does get approved... all of a sudden [the planning department] will have a lot of work again."
Adams said that the county needs to remain "adaptable" based on what Gov. Tom Wolf and health officials mandate.
"We've changed direction a couple of times already just based on the governor's office changing what they're mandating us to do," he said.
During the same meeting, the commissioners approved motions to designate various employees—child welfare workers, 911 operators and dispatch staff, and correctional facility staff—as emergency responders. This designation exempts these employees from the Emergency Sick Leave and Emergency Family Medical Leave Act and limits their ability to apply for emergency sick leave to illness-related reasons only.
"These departments, we need to keep as active as possible to be able to continue to function," Botjer said.
Along the same lines, the commissioners later voted to approve hazard pay for these emergency responders. The staff from the correctional facility, 911 dispatch and shared ride drivers all received an increased wage of $2.50 per hour. In addition, incident response teams with either children and youth protective services or aging protective services will receive an additional $2.50 per hour if they are called into a potentially hazardous situation.
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