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WVU to furlough 875 employees

West Virginia University officials said Friday it was temporarily furloughing 875 employees at its campuses in Morgantown, Beckley and Keyser, a move it hinted at earlier this month when it said it was facing a $30 million deficit brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

WVU said it expects to save approximately $4 million from the furloughs. Faculty members, which tend to have longer contracts, were not affected.

The temporary furlough will be effective Sunday, May 24. Depending on the needs of the university, the return-to-work date will be either Sunday, June 28 or Sunday, July 26. WVU said the furloughed employees were notified Friday morning.

When it decided which employees to furlough, WVU’s Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop said the university looked at what services would be needed in the next 45 to 60 days. Many of the furloughs came from business and auxiliary services, he added.

Alsop said the university also wanted to make the move at this time so the furloughed employees could take advantage of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which provides an additional $600 through July 31.

“We needed to do it now before the program ended,” he said.

The university said it will assist affected employees with applying for unemployment. It will also continue WVU benefits, such as health care, during the furlough. It also does not affect conversion rights for retiree health insurance premiums.

Annual leave, sick leave and compensatory time off balances, however, will be frozen until the furloughed employee returns to work.

WVU closed its campuses in mid-March and many of its faculty and staff started working from home. Classes were switched to online and student housing and dining were also closed, a move that has resulted in $13.6 million in residence hall and dining fees being reimbursed to students.

Also, $10 million in capital improvements to campus buildings have been postponed as well. The university is still going through with making improvements to Hodges Hall and building Reynolds Hall, the new home of the university’s business school. Improvements planned at Milan Puskar Stadium will also proceed as planned.

Top WVU officials, such as President Gordon Gee, are reducing salaries or making financial donations to the university to help plug the shortfall.

WVU said it is looking at having in-person classes at each of the three campuses in the fall, a move that will result in additional novel coronavirus testing, less density, and personal protection equipment.

The university received the first half of $20.2 million from the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. That money will be used for direct cash grants to students affected by the pandemic. The second $10 million installment is expected later this spring. It must be used to cover any costs associated with changes to delivery of instruction because of the coronavirus.

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