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State Workers Face Furloughs Beginning 2021


State government workers will face furloughs starting in 2021.

Governor David Ige explained it’s to help alleviate the one point four billion dollar budget shortfall due to COVID-19.

The furlough will impact at least ten thousand state employees who will be furloughed two days a month beginning as early as January.

Governor Ige estimated the furloughs would save the state about $300 million each year.

"To those who say we can wait to implement these furloughs, I say any new federal stimulus funding we may receive will not make up for the massive budget shortfall we are presented with. As you may recall, previous congressional funding explicitly prohibited making up state budget shortfalls with the funds and focused on providing relief to the community,” he said.

“Every month we wait to take action makes us rack up more debt and burn through our working capital. And as the state's largest employer, how can we not share in the pain when so many of our fellow citizens are experiencing economic hardship?”

The reductions will impact employee salaries by 9.2%.

The furlough exempted 4,600 employees who are first responders, medical and public safety personnel, and employees at the departments of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and Transportation.

Workers will face furloughs at the state Department of Education and the University of Hawaii. However, the details have not yet been released. Expected furloughs from these departments were not counted in the governor’s estimate of 10,000 employees. 

Ige said the furloughs will save about four thousand jobs.

But Randy Perreira Executive Director at the Hawaii Government Employee Association thought there will likely still be layoffs.

“On top of that, he is restricting spending in all state executive agencies between 10% and 20%. There will be the layoff of employees coming as a result of that 10% to 20% cut,” he said.

“It is inescapable. I don't see how you can cut that much out of each departments’ operating budget without impacting layoffs. He was very misleading. It's going to be furloughs plus layoffs.”

Ige did not have an estimate for how long the furloughs may last---only saying they will continue as long as they are needed.

The governor said he and his cabinet will also take a voluntary salary reduction of  nine point two percent.

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