UW Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt announced plans Monday to furlough employees as the institution faces economic challenges in the fallout of COVID-19.
The UW System defines furloughs as “a leave of absence from UW System employment either intermittently or for a specified consecutive number of days where the employee remains an employee of the institution.”
In an email to employees at UWO, Leavitt said despite the $6.2 million the university received through the CARES Act stimulus funding, the refunds promised to students would consume most of that funding.
Those circumstances leave the university facing an immediate $4 million gap this fiscal year, threatening UWO’s ability to fund costs as crucial to the university as payroll.
“There is no good or preferable time to take this action,” Leavitt said in the email. “Financial conditions that would have allowed us to finish the academic year at full staff have changed in just the past several days.”
Leavitt said despite the major disruptions furloughing employees will cause, they help preserve UWO employees’ positions and benefits.
Leavitt said furloughed employees also have the ability to immediately apply for unemployment insurance — one of the first federally expanded supports in place to help people and their families through the economic hardships brought on from COVID-19.
According to the email, furloughs will begin May 4. Leavitt said employees will experience furloughs differently, and not all will last for the duration.
“We are working quickly to get thorough details on furlough requirements, assignments and flexibilities to UWO employees,” Leavitt said in the email.
Employees will be notified of their status by April 27.
Leavitt said the university is planning to enact two types of furloughs.
Consecutive day furloughs:
“All 12-month employees who are not currently working and other employees who will be identified this week will be on continuous furlough May 4 through Aug. 31,” Leavitt said in the email.
These furloughs are “assigned in full day increments for a continuous period of time with a defined start and end date,” according to UW System policy.
“All remaining 12-month employees will be on intermittent furlough for a number of days to be determined beginning May 4, 2020, through June 2021,” Leavitt said.
According to UW System policy, these furloughs are “assigned in full-day increments that must not exceed one day in any two-week period.”
According to Leavitt, all nine-month employees will be exempt from furloughs this fiscal year, and will be notified later in the summer that they’ll be intermittently furloughed in the 2021 fiscal year.
Leavitt said that the university is anticipating more upcoming financial challenges in light of the disruptions caused by the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.
“Right now, we anticipate more furloughs will be necessary into the next academic and calendar years,” Leavitt said. “By early summer, we hope to have learned more about the pandemic forecast and what, if any, limitations or prohibitions there will be on instruction, housing and other operations in fall.”
The university hopes to have more information on the pandemic’s forecast and what, if any impact it will have on the institution’s fall operations.
This isn’t the first time that university employees have been furloughed. About 10 years ago, employees were also furloughed in response to the governor’s system-wide budget reductions.