Mayor Jacobs details temporary furlough for some Knox County employees

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs has released new details on a temporary eight-week furlough for county government employees as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The furlough will affect 366 county employees in the fee offices and every executive branch department and may save Knox County up to an estimated $1.73 million in payroll costs. Employees will continue working and be paid through May 8. The furlough will officially begin May 9.

Mayor Jacobs confirmed the temporary Furlow last Friday.

Speaking to WATE 6 On Your Side, Jacobs reiterated that the decision was not an easy one to make.

“These are hard times. Not only for the people who are suffering from the direct impact of COVID-19, but also the folks that are suffering from the economic impact of it,” said Jacobs.

Furlough numbers are as follows:

  • Executive Branch Departments: 264
    • Libraries: 169
    • Health Department: 26
    • Engineering and Public Works: 22
    • Veterans and Senior Services: 17
    • Finance: 7
    • Information Technology: 7
    • Parks and Recreation: 7
    • Procurement: 5
    • Mayor’s Office: 2
    • Probation and Pretrial Release: 1
    • Risk Management: 1
    • Benefits: 0
    • Regional Forensic Center: 0
    • Human Resources: 0
  • County offices: 102
    • Clerk: 20
    • Criminal Court Clerk: 19
    • Trustee: 19
    • Circuit Court Clerk :16
    • Property Assessor: 13
    • Register of Deeds: 11
    • Law Director: 3
    • Chancery Court: 1

The library has the largest number of employees impacted by the furlough, at 169 staff members. A spokesperson for the library system says 115 of those are classified full-time.

The Library staff consists of 194 employees, after furloughs, the remaining 25 employees will handle all aspects of library operations remotely, including managing electronic resources, circulation and reference services, online programming, maintenance, and other necessary operations, according to a spokesperson.

The Library will continue to serve the public through its extensive online resources including ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and newspapers, animated picture books, movies, music, tutoring, and video instruction. 

Mary Pom Claiborne, Library Spokesperson

Knox County citizens may apply online for a digital access card. Books and materials that are already checked out may be kept without penalty until the Library reopens.

All library facilities will remain closed to the public until further notice, at this time.

The Human Resources and Benefits department and the Regional Forensic Center were exempted from issuing furloughs due to high demand on already overwhelmed staff. All elected fee offices were asked to participate. The Attorney General, Public Defender and Sheriff elected to opt-out.

“This was the hardest decision I’ve had to make since taking office. I am hopeful that by beginning to bring businesses back online things will turn around quickly. It is my intent to bring everyone back to work as soon as possible.”

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs

Knox County sales tax revenues are expected to fall between $7 million and $18 million.

County employees who are part of the furlough will continue working and receiving a paycheck through May 8. Jacobs said this means those employees will not skip a paycheck.

Impacted employees will continue to receive health coverage and other benefits from Knox County throughout furlough as well as up to $275 per week from the State of Tennessee and $600 from the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relieve and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding for a total of up $875 per week while unemployed.

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