Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen our world change. Many of the small businesses in our community have been forced to close – some, I fear, will never reopen. But we have also witnessed many businesses transform, adapt, and do what they need to do to stay afloat, even if that included having to temporarily lay off loyal employees for the good of the business and the safety of the workers. Why can’t government do the same?
The Board of County Commissioners held a meeting yesterday in which a majority of the board – including my opponent – defeated a motion by Commissioner Wright to lay off “non-essential” staff while allowing them to keep their medical benefits past May 4, when the governor’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order is set to end. These workers, who cannot work from home, will continue to be paid while the private sector is forced to lay off employees.
I find this action absolutely baffling. Not only was this decision “tone deaf,” but it also shows a pattern that government follows a different set of rules than the rest of us. The state is offering very favorable unemployment benefits with limited penalties that would ensure that our hard-working county employees would be taken care of during this temporary layoff. Instead, the BOCC chose to blow a hole in the county budget and backfill it with around $500,000 or about 1/3 of our county’s “Rainy Day Fund.”
Moments like these are about leadership and making hard decisions. Although this decision was hard – and might be unpopular among the Commissioners’ colleagues – we elect them to make decisions in the best interest of everyone. Taking money from our county’s “last resort” emergency fund is a bad idea when there is another option that might actually pay some employees more money when you factor in the $600/week federal stipend.
We need leadership and vision now more than ever. By all accounts, things are going to get worse before they get better.