NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Mayor Ray Nagin said yesterday the city is laying off as many as 3,000 employees – or about half its workforce – because of the financial damage inflicted on New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.
Nagin announced with “great sadness” that he had been unable to find the money to keep the workers on the payroll.
He said only nonessential workers will be laid off and that no firefighters or police will be among those let go.
“I wish I didn’t have to do this. I wish we had the money, the resources to keep these people,” Nagin said. “The problem we have is we have no revenue streams.”
Nagin described the layoffs as “pretty permanent” and said that the city will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to notify municipal employees who fled the city in the aftermath of Katrina, which struck about a month ago.
The mayor said the move will save about $5 million to $8 million of the city’s monthly payroll of $20 million. The layoffs will take place over the next two weeks.
“We talked to local banks and other financial institutions and we are just not able to put together the financing necessary to continue to maintain City Hall’s staffing at its current levels,” the mayor said.
Meanwhile, former President Clinton met with dozens of New Orleans-area evacuees staying at a shelter in Baton Rouge’s convention center. And officials ended their door-to-door sweep for corpses in Louisiana with the death toll yesterday at 972 – far fewer than the 10,000 the mayor had feared at one point. Mississippi’s Katrina death toll was 221.
A company hired by the state to remove bodies will remain on call if any others are found.
Clinton, working with former President Bush to raise money for victims, shook hands and chatted with the evacuees, some of whom have been sleeping on cots in the Rivercenter’s vast concrete hall for more than a month and complained of lack of showers, clean clothes, privacy and medical care.
“My concern is to listen to you – and learn the best way to spend this money we’ve got,” Clinton said.
Robert Warner, 51, of New Orleans said he and others have struggled to get private housing set up through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“We’ve been mired in the bureaucratic red tape since Day One,” he said.
Clinton later was driven through New Orleans’ heavily damaged lower Ninth Ward, where houses were caved in or pushed off their foundations.
“I saw things I’d never thought I’d see,” Clinton said later before a meeting with residents of the largely untouched Algiers neighborhood.