City housing announces Friday closing, employee furloughs

The city announced late Wednesday afternoon that it is furloughing housing department employees and closing housing and community services offices on Friday. It is the first of a dozen furloughs through the end of the year because of automatic federal budget cuts.

The furloughs affect 59 employees, all of which are federally funded, said Mary K. Vaughn, the city’s director of housing and community services. The employees help low-income people obtain housing and job training.

The furloughs, announced to employees two weeks ago, will recoup about $108,000 in lost federal funding, she said.

“It’s not enough,” she said. “We will still have to go into our reserves.”

The shortfall for public housing is $274,334, affecting public housing and Section 8 programs and staff, Vaughn said. The shortfall for the career development office is $120,409 and affects the career development staff.

There will be 11 additional furloughs and office closings on Fridays through December, Vaughn said: July 19; Aug. 2; Aug. 16; Aug. 30; Sept. 13; Sept. 27; Oct. 11; Oct. 25; Nov. 8; Nov. 22; and Dec. 6.

“The furlough plan is the best of other options we considered, which included staff layoffs or across-the-board salary cuts,” Vaughn said in a news release issued by the city shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Eleven employees, funded by other federal grants, are not furloughed and can request vacation or work from another city office when the housing offices are closed, Vaughn said in the news release.

Vaughn is exempt from the furloughs as well, but she said Wednesday afternoon she is furloughing herself Friday.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds most of the local housing office, is one of seven federal agencies required to furlough employees as a result of the sequester, a series of automatic federal budget cuts. HUD also is furloughing workers and closing federal offices on furlough days.