Bipartisan Effort Pushes ERI to Ease City Budget Crunch

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City Councilmembers Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. (D-Bedford Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights) and Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) came together yesterday in a bipartisan effort at City Hall to urge Mayor Bill De Blasio to consider implementing an Early Retirement Incentives (ERI) program instead of drastic layoffs of some 22,000 city employees.

City Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr

The effort came before de Blasio’s announcement today that he will issue a week of furloughs for all Mayor’s Office employees as his administration seeks to get state approval to borrow money to make up for a $9 billion shortfall on City revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are in a budget crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen in nearly two decades,” said Borelli, “and unfortunately we have an administration that seems hellbent at pushing layoffs as a first solution and not the last and worst-case scenario.”

Borelli said the details have to be worked out, but the ERI program is meant to avert potential layoffs of city employees proposed by De Blasio beginning October 1. 

Under ERI, workers who haven’t met retirement age would be given the option to retire early with an incentive package as a way to get them off the city payroll system, explained Borelli. 

In a letter addressed to De Blasio in May, Borelli and bipartisan colleagues wrote about the ERI program hoping to get ahead of the impending fiscal crisis and cited several instances in the past where it was successful in staving off job loss.

The letter cites a Citizens Budget Commission report that found after former Governor Paterson used ERI in 2010, and 9,311 employees opted-in, city and state governments ended up saving $681 million over the course of two years. 

“If we can possibly get some people off the public payroll system and onto the pension system we can save a few dollars and thereby save some people from layoffs,” said Borelli.

Borelli said only after the city has exhausted all the other options should the Mayor consider laying off otherwise hard working city employees. 

“We are across the aisle, Democratic and Republicans, in understanding how this system could really stave off these disastrous layoffs. There’s no panacea for the budget challenges that New York City faces, but creating carefully crafted early incentive program should be a no brainer before the city considers any public sector layoffs and before the city considers any public sector furloughs,” said Cornegy.  

Cornegy and Borelli said that they don’t anticipate backlash from older city employees since the program is voluntary. 

“A little hint if you tell people they can retire early and get their pension a year early, then people are happy to do this,” said Borelli.

“Coupled with the pandemic we’ve seen people that are so fearful for their lives that they’re looking for an opportunity to shift and pivot and spend more time with their families,” said Cornegy, “It’s not a forced retirement.”