I’ve been laid off a few times. It’s humiliating and confusing, especially if it’s your first time. Once you’ve been through it once, you are less stressed and somewhat comfortable navigating all the baggage that unemployment dumps on you.

I’ve always struggled with the term ‘laid-off.’ A lay-off could be seasonal and have you out of work until business picks up. I guess that’s called a temporary lay-off these days. Yet, folks get straight up fired with no hopes of being rehired and it’s still called a lay-off. And then there’s something called unpaid leave. Somehow, that’s different from a temporary lay-off.

Regardless of how they describe it, when you’re laid off, you are out of work.

How you get laid off has a lot to do with the level of humiliation you’re left with while you’re sitting at home out of work. The most compassionate companies over-communicate the company’s position on an ongoing basis so an employee can see the end coming if things are looking dire. The other extreme are those companies that won’t even look you in the eye while they’re kicking you to the curb with no warning.

I read in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer how Franklin Institute just laid off all their part-timers and 36% of their full-time staff across all departments amounting to almost 400 people. Although it appears the workers had no warning, every laid-off employee was called personally and told of their lay-off. That’s tough love. I’m not real sure how Chester City laid off their staff, but I hear it was via a conference call. That’s better than the one time a company laid me off via an email. And, it’s better than hired hand George Clooney meeting you in the conference room to lay you off like in the movie ‘Up in the Air.’

As much as the announcement of a lay-off shocked Franklin Institute workers, they had to have seen it coming. There’s absolutely no money coming in.

In contrast, I feel terrible for city of Chester employee lay-offs because there’s no way they could have seen it coming. City government isn’t a museum with thousands of visitors paying admission, buying trinkets, and getting tickets to see an IMAX movie. City workers hear what we hear over and over: the city has a balanced budget. That includes money to pay employees. The only revenue the city receives is tax revenue and I don’t think that suddenly died due to the coronavirus.

I heard someone say city officials blamed the lay-off on their sponsors stop making payment to the city. If true, who knew the city had sponsors supporting payroll? I immediately wondered in Harrah’s stopped making payments to the city now that they’re closed and aren’t making any money.

A couple weeks ago I asked a guy close to the original deal Harrah’s signed with the city if Harrah’s would/could reduce their payment to the city in light of their closing. The only answer I could get out of him was, ‘it’s unchartered territory. The contract says they are to pay the city $10 million a year.’

I figure if it came down to Harrah’s lawyers arguing they don’t have the money to pay Chester, and Chester lawyers arguing we need Harrah’s money to survive, I’d bet the house on Harrah’s getting the better end of that deal. I wish city officials would snitch on who the ‘sponsor’ is who stopped giving us money so I could attack them.

We don’t know why folks were laid off. City government works for the citizens of Chester, but we always get left out of the information mix. They claim transparency but when the Daily Times’ reporter asked questions, they had nothing more to say, especially when it comes to the money the feds just approved directed to municipalities feeling the sting from the coronavirus. Why can’t we get some of that money to keep people employed?

Once upon a time, I thought government was like one big family designed to worktogether. When I see federal programs given to the states to manage, then passed through to congressional districts and counties before hitting the municipalities, that takes some coordination, compromise, and relationship building.

In my crazy mixed up mind, I see Chester City looking up to Delaware County Council as their big brother. Our state rep and state senator are our cousins. Our US congressperson and US senator are our aunt and uncle, and then there’s big poppa, the governor, up in Harrisburg. When you get in trouble, you call on the family to see you through. But, that doesn’t seem to be the case around here. Chester city government behaves like they have all the answers and resources in the world, but if they did, they wouldn’t be laying off people right now.

And then, there’s the deal Chester Water Authority put in the city’s lap. To my knowledge, the city never rejected the $60 million offer CWA presented to them last summer. They just haven’t acted on it, hoping instead to get the okay to sell CWA like it’s there’s to sell.

Call me an idiot, but $60 million would go a long way right now in the city of Chester. If nothing else, you can set up your own COVID-19 test sites without intending to request them in hopes that your government family will recognize you before their other family members. And, you can keep a lot of your own employees out of the unemployment line and the uncertainty of a job waiting for them when all this is over. If I were laid off from the city, knowing they don’t have the money now to pay me, I’d have no confidence they’d have the money 4-months from now when my full pay kick-in from the government runs out.

Franklin Institute employees who earn over $50,000 are taking a pay cut during the lay-offs. Are the city employees left to run the city doing anything like that? I honestly don’t know.

I feel really bad for anyone who has to try to navigate the unemployment process right now. I would guess the PA CareerLink offices are closed and trying to apply for unemployment compensation by phone is almost impossible during normal times. Folks can probably apply online, but even when things are running smoothly, the first checks are usually 4-weeks down the road.

I guess elected officials are never at risk of a lay-off. I imagine career politicians have no clue what a person with a regular 9-to-5 has to put up with when they’re kicked to the curb by their employer.

So much for all that balanced budget talk in Chester. With audits 3-years behind, how do they even know their own financial situation?


unemployment graph
Please don’t tell the folks at the Inquirer I stole their graph to illustrate the challenges ahead for those applying for unemployment right about now.