Baton Rouge, La. – April 15, 2020 – While the health and well-being of our citizens and employees is at the forefront of our efforts at this moment, it is essential that we take steps to manage our financial affairs as well. Our Plan of Government requires the Mayor-President to make adjustments as needed to keep our City-Parish Annual Operating Budget in balance. In keeping with this responsibility, I am taking the steps below.
I have instructed the City-Parish Finance Department to prepare an initial estimate of the effect of this pandemic on our revenue streams. In keeping with our regular budget estimating practices, Dr. James Richardson, John Rhea Alumni Professor of Economics and Public Administration at Louisiana State University will review these estimates when prepared and provide an outside evaluation of them before they are made official. In addition, our Finance team has ongoing efforts to monitor expenses associated with our pandemic response so we can make the necessary submittals for federal grant reimbursements and funding opportunities.
I will be asking all of the City-Parish Departments and Agencies funded through our budget to place a hiring freeze on positions. Consideration will only be given to filling positions deemed justifiable or essential. In addition, I will be recommending the deletion of some of the unfunded positions from our personnel allotment. Some of these positions have not been funded for several years. By continuing to show the positions in the personnel allotment, it gives a false impression of the size of our workforce and the resources that our departments have available to them to perform their necessary functions.
Hazard pay for our essential workers remains a priority of mine. Local budgets were not designed to handle the revenue loss or the costs associated with a long-term pandemic battle such as this. While FEMA guidelines under the public assistance program provide for reimbursement of a portion of the overtime expenses related to the pandemic, they do not provide for reimbursement of hazard pay. We are grateful for the various federal financial assistance mechanisms incorporated into the CARES Act passed by Congress and signed by President Trump. This act however does not provide provisions for hazard pay. I have communicated with our Congressional Delegation my strong support for expedited federal legislation providing hazard pay for our essential workers who are providing critical services to our citizens. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all of our essential workers who include not only our first response but those who provide hidden service such as public works, traffic control, and medical response just to name a few.
Because we have adhered to our prudent financial policies and maintained reserves for budget stabilization and other matters, we will now have those funds available to help us get through this extraordinary event. Working together we can address both the health and financial challenges that face City-Parish government.