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Milwaukee Common Council passes plan to furlough workers, cut hours

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Milwaukee Common Council passed a plan Friday to reduce hours for 516 city workers and furlough an additional 258.

“This is an uncomfortable spot for us all to be in, and we should have a conversation where we have to struggle about how we’re going to begin to make cuts," Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic said.

The city targeted those making less than $50,000 a year. Council members say those workers would actually make more money off of state and federal unemployment assistance than the city is paying them.

“This is basically an effort to shift the employee cost from city taxpayers to state taxpayers, and national taxpayers,” Alderman Robert Bauman said.

Most of the furloughed workers will come from the Milwaukee library system and the Department of Public Works.

The city will help those workers file, but the council is concerned they will join the hundreds of thousands still waiting for state unemployment.

“This should work, but it might not," Alderman Nik Kovac said. "It’s certainly true that bureaucracy is not always perfect.”

Despite those concerns, a proposed amendment from Alderwoman Chantia Lewis, that would automatically rehire workers who don't receive unemployment for weeks, failed to pass. Other members were concerned that stipulation might make workers ineligible for benefits.

The plan would save the city only $3.3 million dollars, meaning it is not a long-term solution for lost revenue.

“We’re facing a $26 million shortfall," Alderman Michael Murphy said. "That’s a pretty steep curve to work on, and this is going to take a small bite of that.”

The city’s front-line workers, like firefighters, police and public health officials, are all exempt from the cuts.

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