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Are severe budget cuts a side effect of New York City’s coronavirus epidemic?

Mayor Bill de Blasio in a screen shot from his video conference with the media.

As stimulus money is set to flow to New York City and the mayor eyes it as ‘insufficient,’ do draconian budget cuts loom for city agencies?

On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at his daily press briefing on the coronavirus crisis that his priority will be to make sure that the health system is fully funded, and all supplies that health workers need is properly provided.

The mayor said he envisions billions in cuts for the city budget, but said they will not affect vital services such as police, fire, emergency medical services, or the health care system to treat people with coronavirus.

However, de Blasio would not rule out other cuts, but would not say whether that included the possibility of municipal layoffs.

The last time there were major municipal layoffs occurred in 1977 under then-Mayor Abe Beame. Thousands of police officers, sanitation workers and firefighters lost their jobs under a staggering budget cut due to a fiscal crisis that nearly drove New York City into bankruptcy.

“We are trying to figure out the full effect as the stimulus doesn’t figure the billions we need to keep the budget balanced in this city,” de Blasio said. “We believe this should be part of the stimulus bill. We are the epicenter of this crisis and our part of the funding is as much as some states who don’t have any where near as many cases as we have.”

De Blasio said they would look for every cut they could find, but at this time, he would not specify what those cuts might look like. He also would not say for certain if it might include layoffs.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, at a press conference Thursday, waved off pointed criticism by Governor Andrew Cuomo aimed at the Senate’s $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill. Earlier in the day, Cuomo said the state’s share of the package is far short of what’s needed to fix the state’s financial woes.

At this time, New York state will receive $5 billion of the $2 trillion package, but Schumer was quick to point out that other money needed to go to small businesses, the unemployed, hospitals and nurses taking care of the sick. He also said $4 billion would go towards aiding mass transit, exactly what was requested.

Schumer said the total package would amount of $100 billion for the state when all is counted.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer said earlier this week that loss of tax revenue could be between $5-6 billion, and would blow a huge hole in the city budget. He said that could result in a 7 percent reduction in revenue for the city.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is already putting an enormous financial strain on our city’s workers as millions of New Yorkers grapple with the uncertainty of their next paycheck, paying rent, and taking care of their families,” Stringer said in a statement. “At the same time, the massive slowdown of our city’s economy is going to result in substantial losses of the tax revenue that keep this city running.”

Currently, there are 21,173 people in New York State with coronavirus and there have been 281 deaths related to the contagion.

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