A day after the head of New York City’s EMS union warned the city was preparing to eliminate hundreds of emergency medical responder positions amid its COVID-induced budget crisis, Mayor Bill de Blasio did not deny the layoffs were possible.
Speaking at his daily briefing Thursday, de Blasio emphasized he didn't want to lay off a single city worker. There's been too much job loss already, he said.
"But we're getting to the point where we're running out of options," the mayor said.
Barring a federal stimulus, state-approved borrowing power or alternate cost-saving measures, de Blasio has said the city may need to cut as many as 22,000 employees as it grapples with ongoing economic devastation from the pandemic. He stressed Thursday that discussions were ongoing and no final decision had been made -- and warned that next year could be even worse on the layoff front.
Union members were apoplectic. The city’s EMTs and paramedics responded to record call volume in March and early April, peaking at some 6,500 calls a day. They weren't immune to COVID, either. At the worst of the crisis, nearly one in four were out sick. Oren Barzilay, president of FDNY EMS local 257 said that nine union members had died from COVID as a result of working during the pandemic.
"Even with the threat of a second wave of COVID-19 looming and two recent outbreaks in Brooklyn, Bill de Blasio and his team at City Hall wants to balance the city's budget on our backs, eliminating some 400 emergency medical responder positions and placing every New Yorker’s life at risk," Barzilay told NBC News.
"Yesterday, we were praised as heroes, essential workers saving lives. Today, the city government treats us like zeros," his statement continued. "New Yorkers who lived through this deadly pandemic know otherwise."