By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado state administrators announced on Tuesday that there will be mandatory furlough days for Colorado state workers who have salaries above $50,000, with a few exceptions. The action comes as the state budget is drastically affected by the coronavirus pandemic. CBS4 reported on Monday night that the action affects approximately 30,000 workers, or 75% of the state’s workforce.

“The forecast showed that there needed to be billions of dollars in cuts, both the legislative forecast and ours. Very tough budget year. This year and next year,” Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday at a news conference. “It wasn’t the worst case scenario, we are seeing a recovery.”

The governor’s office added that the total number of employees impacted by furloughs will be around 23,600 and the savings will be between $7 million to $8 million.

Mandated furlough days will be between 1 and 4, depending on the worker’s salary, and the days off without pay must be taken over the next fiscal year. Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving, will be one of the state’s furlough days when all eligible employees must be off and most non-essential state government offices will be closed.

“It’s a time for belt tightening. And families are tightening the family budget. Many folks have lost hours that they work. Others are worried about losing their jobs,” Polis said. “The public sector too needs to tighten its belt to get through this. We extended that furlough program today as a way to save millions of dollars in taxpayer money and make sure we can minimize interruptions to important state services.”

CBS4 reported that state administrators have calculated the furlough days will cost workers between about 1% and 2% of their annual salary. Polis said the plan will save millions of dollars of taxpayer money and “minimizes interruptions to important state services.”

Workers who are exempt are as follows:

– Those workers necessary to respond to the COVID pandemic
– State workers who assist Coloradans in finding jobs
– Colorado state employees who protect public safety and roads

Polis called the shortfall due to the pandemic “one of the most challenging economic crises in our history.”

“Just as the private sector is tightening its belt, so too must the government. This thoughtful furlough plan helps address the state’s budget shortfall while ensuring that our lower wage workers are not impacted and we can continue to deliver high quality critical services for Coloradans,” he said in a prepared statement.

Polis and his cabinet will be among those taking the furloughs days.

“This is a compassionate furlough model that makes sure that those who work for Colorado and earn $50,000 or less will have no have furlough days and have no loss of pay,” he said. “For others it’s maybe one or two days.”

Shawn Chitnis

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