New York City emergency medical workers prepare for layoffs

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Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) lift a patient into an ambulance while wearing protective gear, as the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in New York City, New York, March 24, 2020.

Stefan Jeremiah | Reuters

The head of New York City’s emergency medical services union said Wednesday the city is preparing to lay off hundreds of its members as the budget crisis grows amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Oren Barzilay, president of FDNY EMS Local 257, blamed Mayor Bill DeBlasio and his administration for the expected fallout.

said in a statement, “Even with the threat of a second wave of COVID-19 looming and two recent outbreaks in Brooklyn, Bill de Blasio and his team at City Hall wants to balance the city’s budget on our backs, eliminating some 400 emergency medical responder positions and placing every New Yorker’s life at risk.”

A spokesperson for the FDNY referred an inquiry to City Hall. A spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio did not immediately respond.

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“Yesterday, we were praised as heroes, essential workers saving lives,” Barzilay said. “Today, the city government treats us like zeros. New Yorkers who lived through this deadly pandemic know otherwise.”

De Blasio has said the city may need to cut as many as 22,000 employees as it grapples with declining contributions from the state and a tax base decimated by people leaving the city, a shuttered Broadway, and a nearly non-existent tourism industry.

The city’s emergency medical technicians and paramedics responded to record call volume in March and early April, peaking at some 6,500 calls a day.

The EMTs and paramedics were not immune to COVID-19. At the peak, nearly 1 in 4 were out sick as the virus ravaged New York City, killing over 23,000 residents so far.

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