UPDATE (May 08, 2020 4:15 p.m.):
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – After discussing the possibility several weeks ago, West Virginia University announced Friday that it will implement a temporary furlough, affecting approximately 875 staff employees, as part of cost-saving efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release.
A temporary furlough is defined as a temporary reduction in force with an expectation of returning to work, university officials said.
WVU suspended in-person classes and transitioned most employees to alternative work arrangements in mid-March. These restrictions to the University’s on-campus operations have resulted in the loss of several revenue streams, officials said.
“Throughout the past several weeks, the University has implemented several measures to prioritize funding to satisfy our financial obligations while also considering the ongoing needs of our students, faculty and staff,” said Rob Alsop, vice president for Strategic Initiatives. “However, after a careful financial review, we made the difficult decision to move forward with a temporary furlough program.”
The temporary furloughs follow WVU’s recent announcement that President Gordon Gee and other senior administrators will reduce their salaries or make a comparable charitable contribution to the University in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Further, the more than $500,000 raised through the WVU Foundation’s #GivingTuesdayNow fundraising event earlier this week will benefit the Gray Student Emergency Fund, which provides emergency financial aid and unrestricted scholarship support to students experiencing a sudden financial hardship.
Alsop said making the decision to furlough employees was not easy and not taken lightly. The University expects to save approximately $4 million through the temporary furlough program, according to the news release.
All employees identified for the furloughs were notified on Friday morning, officials said. The temporary furlough will be effective on May 24, and impacted employees will return to work on either June 28 or July 26, depending on operational needs, according to officials.
Alsop said WVU will be working closely with furloughed employees to help them file for unemployment benefits at both the state and the federal levels. At the federal level, he said, there is the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law May 27, 2020.
“We’re not happy at all, we’re very sad about today’s events, but we also realize that with them working with the CARES Act and focusing on the longterm we will come out of this as a strong institution,” Alsop said. “That doesn’t really make it any easier, but it does provide some context for how we work through this pandemic.”
Employees will continue their benefits during the furlough, officials said. However, annual leave, sick leave and CTO balances will be frozen until employees on temporary furlough return to work, they said.
There is no plan to furlough other employees at this time, Alsop said, the University is simply trying to make a plan to see what other ways they can save money. A big factor that will determine if they will have enough revenue, he said, will be if students are allowed to return to school in the fall.