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RTD workers facing 9-day furlough without option for unemployment benefits

RTD said it could experience a $252 million budget shortfall in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

DENVER — Due to budget shortfalls, workers for the Regional Transportation District (RTD) will have to take nine unpaid days off by the end of the year, but can only take one furlough day per week.

“This will allow RTD to limit exposure to unemployment claims,” RTD spokesperson Marta Sipeki wrote in an email to 9NEWS.

The agency is self-insured for unemployment, Sipeki said, meaning that the funds don't come out of a state pool.  She said it would cost RTD more money to pay unemployment benefits to employees to furlough a week at the time, defeating the purpose of furloughing to save money. 

The nine furlough days are spread between now and the end of the year, Sipeki said. Five of those days are around holidays, and the other four are floating.

While RTD said in May that members of its elected board were considering “giving up some of their $1,000-a-month compensation” due to the agency’s financial situation, Sipeki said only board member has made a contribution to RTD.

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This news comes a day after the Colorado state legislature formed an independent committee that will spend a year analyzing RTD and making recommendations to the transportation agency, which has had setbacks that pre-date the COVID-19 pandemic.

During much of the pandemic, RTD did not charge fares to riders and cut service.

Fare collection will resume on July 1.

According to a news release from RTD, the agency’s 2021 revenue will likely fall a third from previous projections, and if that’s true, it could face a $252 million shortfall.

RTD said much of its 2020 budget gap will be funded by a grant from the federal CARES Act.

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