More than 150 Anoka County employees are being furloughed indefinitely, at least while their departments are closed and their workloads diminished because of the coronavirus outbreak.
County Administrator Rhonda Sivarajah said the furloughs affect about 8% of staffers who work for the county library system, human services, the parks department, license centers and general services. Of the county's 1,940 employees, 91 are being fully furloughed while another 64 have reduced hours. Half the furloughed workers — 77 — work for the county library system.
It's not possible to practice social distancing with patrons and staffers at the county's eight library branches. So all are closed, Sivarajah said, and only three offer curbside services with limited hours. Rather than one person leading story time at each branch, one staffer now conducts virtual story time for the entire system.
Sivarajah said the furloughs align with the county's mission of serving citizens while being fiscally responsible. She said officials intend that the furloughed employees will return as work ramps back up.
"You can't justify keeping staff here when there's not enough work to do," she said. "When you see people across our entire county being laid off and having to apply for unemployment, again, I think it is happening all around us and county government is not exempt from that."
Hennepin County isn't furloughing its workers, but many of the county's 300 library and service center employees may wind up not working nevertheless. Those staffers were deemed nonessential and offered reassignment, but Hennepin County officials say there may be no spots open for reassignment anyway. Affected employees may use paid leave time, borrow up to 240 hours of leave time, or use unpaid leave time without losing the county's share of benefit payments.
"No employee has been laid off or separated from employment at this time," said Michael Rossman, Hennepin County's chief human resources officer, in a statement last week.
Officials with Ramsey and Carver counties have decided against furloughing employees for now. Those officials are asking department heads to evaluate services and find areas where employees can shift to help with workloads.