Coronavirus News: Correction officers' union questions safety of possible officer layoffs at Rikers

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The president of the New York City correction officers' union is expressing concerns about looming layoffs Mayor Bill de Blasio has threatened could be ahead for New York City amid the growing financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

De Blasio has said 22,000 city workers could face layoffs in an effort to save roughly $1 billion unless the federal government increases its financial support of the city or the state allows the city to increase its borrowing power.

Correction Officers' Benevolent Association President Benny Boscio, Jr., said a representative with the NYC Department of Correction contacted him looking to save roughly $48 million across the DOC alone and mentioned layoffs and furloughs as a possible solution.

Boscio said he worries layoffs could leave his members unable to properly oversee the city's 11 inmate facilities, most of which are on Rikers Island, should there be a resurgence of the COVID-19 in the fall.

"That's the biggest fear, because during the first round of the pandemic, about 1,400 of my members actually tested positive for COVID, and we had over 3,000 members out sick at one point," Boscio said. "My message to the city is don't layoff my members. We were there for you during the pandemic. We didn't have the luxury of staying home. We were essential to you back then, and now it seems likes the city wants to turn their backs on us."

Boscio also questioned why the city couldn't look to its capital budget for savings rather than its expense budget.

The capital budget funds projects such as the roughly $1 billion set aside to build borough based jails in an effort to close Rikers.

"They had to originally take from the expense budget to move it to the capital budget," Boscio said. "To move new jails into the boroughs is years away, so to take a small percentage of that money for borough based jails to save the layoffs of my members, it's a no brainer to us."

A spokesperson with the Mayor's Office said the city couldn't take from its capital budget to backfill the expense budget, which covers personnel salaries, because the budgets are separate.

"To be clear: City Hall does not want these layoffs to happen, but this is the hole we are in without a stimulus or borrowing authority," Press Secretary Bill Neidhardt said in response to Boscio's concerns.

Another city spokesperson added that every agency is in the process of identifying sayings and couldn't share more specifics at this time.

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