At the April 9 Board of County Commissioners meeting, County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson, county manager, gave an update on Johnson County Government’s employee furloughs.
As of April 8, 264 employees have been furloughed. The furloughs are meant to align staffing with the current programs and services that are currently being provided to residents and helping to maintain income stability for employees who did not have sufficient work due to COVID-19.
A large portion of these are Johnson County Library employees whose primary roles cannot be done remotely, such as shelving books, and, for a similar reason, Johnson County Park and Recreation District regular staff who work in areas such as before and after school care or recreational programs. Though still serving patrons through their eLibrary and the development of virtual programming, Johnson County Library branches are temporarily closed to the public. While parks and trails remain open with some features closed such as playgrounds, JCPRD buildings and facilities are closed.
Approximately 24 percent of the furloughs come from other county departments and are positions that do not have sufficient work due to COVID-19. These are not all full-time positions; the 264 employees equate to approximately 195 FTEs.
On March 30, Postoak Ferguson signed an executive order allowing departments, agencies and offices, working with Human Resources, to furlough employees who work in positions that do not have sufficient work due to COVID-19. Employees on furlough are supported by the county in their applications for unemployment benefits from the state of Kansas, which have been enhanced compared to typical times by Congress’ CARES Act.
“I am so appreciative of how our workforce has handled this challenging time, adapting quickly and professionally as the situation has rapidly evolved,” said Postoak Ferguson. “The decision to furlough is a balanced approach between our values of being a caring workplace and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. We are assisting our employees through this process, including applying for enhanced unemployment benefits on their behalf, while we continue to prioritize how we are serving our community’s 600,000 residents.”
Employees placed on furlough will remain employed by Johnson County Government and JCPRD, with the intent that they can be changed back to active status in the future. While on furlough, employees will keep their benefits, such as health insurance, and continue to pay their portion of the premiums.
Johnson County Government’s Human Resources Department is having direct communications with employees whose status is changing to furlough and has also created an employee hotline and FAQ to help answer questions.