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Local Governments Scale Back Services, Send Workers Home To Limit COVID-19

Cleveland and other local governments are asking many employees to work from home. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
Cleveland and other local governments are asking many employees to work from home.

Northeast Ohio’s local governments are sending home hundreds of workers in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The Summit County Executive’s Office is placing 147 employees on paid administrative leave and allowing another 101 to work from home, according to communications director Greta Johnson.

Another 448 essential employees will continue to work on-site, Johnson said. The county has ordered additional work stations to allow more employees to work from home.

“The health and safety of my staff and the public we serve is my number one priority,” Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro said in a news release. “It is my intention to continue all County services while providing options for my employees that allow for social distancing, telecommuting, and work from home capabilities as we make every effort to help flatten the curve.”

Akron is telling about a third of its 1,800 employees not to report to work beginning Friday, according to a news release from the mayor’s office. Those workers will still receive healthcare benefits, but will have the option of using paid time off or seeking unemployment insurance.

The order does not apply to Akron police, fire and EMS workers, nor to high-level administrative, legal, financial and communications staff, according to the release. Akron will continue providing essential services like trash pickup and emergency response.

“At this time, residents should expect no change in the level of public services we provide, however they are asked to extend patience and understanding as local government navigates this unprecedented situation, and as circumstances change rapidly,” Mayor Dan Horrigan said in the news release.

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish had encouraged employees to work from home if possible, saying on Monday that departments have been evaluating who can do so. The county is handing out laptops and other remote work tools, according to Chief Communications Officer Eliza Wing.

Certain Cuyahoga County employees, like Department of Child and Family Services hotline workers and other staff, are still showing up to work.

“Child Protection Specialists are still working cases, making visits, investigating allegations and working to make sure children are safe,” Deonna Kirkpatrick, the deputy director of communications for health and human services, said in an email to ideastream. “They are following state guidelines for visits that must still take place but being mindful of not exposing families and workers if at all possible.”

The county’s child abuse hotline is still up and running. DCFS is trying to provide more support staff with tablets and laptops so they can work remotely, Kirkpatrick said.

Cleveland has shuttered many city buildings and is scaling back public-facing services, according to a news release. Recreation centers are closed and Cleveland City Hall will be open only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Public board and commission meetings are canceled, though Cleveland City Council will meet March 23.

“Effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020 all non-essential City employees are working from home or self-quarantined if they are unable to work,” city leadership wrote in a notice to employees Wednesday night. “These are temporary and short-term arrangements for an estimated 30-60 days. All employees will be paid as normal.”

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.