Following significant budget shortfalls, Pomona College is furloughing staff amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In an email to the Pomona community, Pomona College President G. Gabrielle Starr stated that financial shortfalls amid lost room and board revenue are causing the furloughs. Pomona moved to an all-online semester this year.
In her email, Starr wrote that Pomona managed to hold off furloughs for nearly half a year:
“As the crisis began to have a deepening impact on college finances, we worked to hold off measures such as furloughs and to continue paying all employees. The College was able to do so for six months, even as the pandemic required students to move off campus and some work areas had to close down as a result.”
However, Pomona faces a budget gap for the fiscal year of over $37 million, forcing the college to temporarily furlough workers starting Oct. 1; employees will receive pay until Sept. 31. Furloughs will consist of full and partial hourly reductions.
According to the college, “[t]he furloughs will affect people working in College functions that are closed so that employees cannot perform their work either on-site or remotely, and those working in College functions that are dramatically curtailed so that employees cannot work a full schedule. Earlier today, [Pomona] reached out to affected employees in the most face-to-face ways possible in the situation.”
However, Pomona is providing at least some benefits to furloughed workers through the end of the year:
“We report this news with deep sadness, and below we provide more information on why this is happening now and specific steps we are taking—including paying all furloughed employees through Sept. 30 and continuing to provide health coverage through at least Dec. 31—to help affected employees.”
According to the college, though furloughs had been discussed in town hall meetings since classes went online in March of this year, Pomona “moved forward with the hope and expectation that [it] would be able to resume in-person education in the fall. In July, however, as public health conditions in California deteriorated, [it was] forced to set aside our plans to resume in-person teaching and continue remote education into [the] fall semester.”
Pomona has considered furloughs for at least a month as the college faces additional budget shortfalls from students taking a gap year. Starr also expects the furloughs to be temporary, with furloughed staff returning when students return to campus.
“In our Aug. 5 townhalls with staff, faculty and students, we announced that, regrettably, furloughs may now be necessary. Over the last month since then, the difficulty of the budget picture became more evident as we learned how many students would be taking gap years and leaves of absence, nudging down our enrollment this year and adding to the financial challenge,” Starr wrote.
Furloughed workers should be able to receive unemployment benefits:
“We expect employees with full furloughs will qualify for unemployment insurance, and we also are seeking participation in the California Working Sharing Program, which could allow partially furloughed employees to receive partial unemployment benefits as well. We also will assist eligible employees in applying for the State of California’s Lost Wages Assistance Program, which provides additional financial support of $300 per week beyond standard unemployment insurance. Our Human Resources Department will work with affected employees on gaining access to these benefits.”
Additional information on the furloughs can be found on Pomona’s Coronavirus Furloughs FAQ.