Groups Examine Pandemic Impact On Public Sector Employment | WAMC

Groups Examine Pandemic Impact On Public Sector Employment

May 14, 2020

New York State is predicting a $445 billion economic impact from COVID-19, greater than 2008 Great Recession and the recession following the 9/11 attacks. Groups are now analyzing how each region’s economies will be affected during a prolonged recovery.

On a Zoom call organized by the Capital District Regional Planning Commission Thursday, Laura Schultz, Director of Fiscal Analysis and Senior Economist at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, said COVID-19 will have lingering effects long after a vaccine is developed.

“While the recovery will likely start soon as these regions start to reopen, the impacts are going to be over the long-term. New York State is looking at revenue challenges for the next four years and municipalities should probably be looking at that time-range as well,” said Schultz.

But an analysis of New York State unemployment data shows the Capital Region has among the lowest percentage of unemployment claims statewide, at this time.

“The Capital Region has fared the best to date with only about 14 percent of 2019 employment filing for unemployment. But you see bigger hits in Long Island and Western New York,” said Schultz.

Schultz said that 22 percent of the Capital Region’s workforce works in state and local government, and to date that sector has accounted for just 1 percent of unemployment claims over the last several weeks.

But Schultz warned that without federal aid, state and local governments could see revenue shortfalls of up to 20 percent.

Now, she says, it’s time to take lessons from the recession and recovery a decade ago.

Kate Baker, Interim Director of the New York State Small Business Development Center at the University at Albany, said that means throwing the old way of doing things out the window.

“Prior the pandemic, many times, groups worked in silos. And fortunately we’re seeing those silos break down but they need to break down even more,” said Baker.

Baker said the worst thing anyone in any sector can do right now is to make a decision based on, “Well, that’s how we’ve always done it.”

“It doesn’t mean that the process isn’t wrong, but you should be looking at every process, everything that you do, how you do it, and evaluating: is this the most effective way for us to do this? Is it the most cost-effective way?”

That include new business models, partnerships, and collaborations.

Public employee unions are bracing for an impact.

CSEA Communications Director Mark Kotzin said the union has two main focuses at this time.

“One is to make sure we get the federal funding to allow our state and localities to recover from the economic impact the pandemic has had.”

CSEA’s other focus is to make sure workplaces are safe to go back to – workplaces that may not look the same after COVID-19.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has warned of deep cuts to education and municipal governments if federal aid to localities does not get approved in Washington.

Randi DiAntonio, Vice President of the Public Employees Federation, says PEF is advocating for other ways to maintain funding as well, including a billionaire’s tax. DiAntonio acknowledged that there hasn’t been the political will to raise taxes on the rich in recent years, but she says COVID has created a fiscal crisis not seen before.

“And to take it out of schools and state services and on the backs of the essential workforce, who are basically on the front lines taking care of everybody else, I don’t think that’s the answer.”

DiAntonio said prior to the pandemic, PEF was still fighting to restore pre-Great Recession levels of public sector employment.