Hit with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Missouri Department of Transportation's director said Wednesday the department expects to cut employees' pay next week — though unemployment will be automatically available through a shared work plan.
MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna said the department's work week will be reduced to 32 hours, and pay will be reduced accordingly.
However, employees will have access to a Shared Work Unemployment Compensation Program that the department has applied for, McKenna said, adding employees will not need to individually apply for unemployment.
A shared work plan — offered through the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations — provides employers with an alternative to layoffs.
There are almost 5,100 MoDOT employees, McKenna said.
McKenna said employees who choose to opt out of the shared work plan would instead take a 5 percent pay reduction — as primarily employees close to retirement might consider.
Employees who do collect unemployment will also have access to the extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits being provided through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act through next month, McKenna said.
He said the department's senior management team will also take pay cuts for the next three months — a 10 percent pay cut for him and the deputy director, and a 5 percent cut for the rest of the 33 senior managers.
Those steps are part of the department's plan to cut $17 million-$20 million in payroll costs, McKenna said.
"We are not immune to the hit" from the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
McKenna said the department started slowing discretionary spending 10 weeks ago and has been reviewing hiring and promotional expenses.
"It's responsible stewardship of the state road fund," he said.
McKenna told the News Tribune last week the full impact of the pandemic has not yet been seen; the revenue numbers for May reflect the month of March — before the worst of the pandemic so far hit in April.
Traffic volume is not an exact approximation for miles driven, but he said at the peak of shutdowns caused by the pandemic, traffic had declined 50 percent. It's rebounded since restrictions on business and activities have been eased at the beginning of May, but traffic has still been down by about 20 percent.
How many people are driving matters to MoDOT's budget because it translates into fuel tax and license registration revenue.
Those same revenue declines have also led to delayed local sidewalk improvement projects.
The Associated Press reported last week that MoDOT was delaying approximately $360 million worth of road and bridge projects because of the pandemic's revenue downturns.
McKenna broke that down into $250 million on the Buck O'Neil Bridge Project in Kansas City, $46 million on Gov. Mike Parson's cost-share program for road and bridge projects, and $60 million in other projects paid for with state road funds.
That $60 million includes an approximately $10.6 million bundle of projects in the department's Central District to bring existing sidewalks in compliance with the Americans with Disability Act, said Matt Hiebert, MoDOT's assistant director of communications.
The bundle of projects includes sidewalks along roads in 16 Mid-Missouri cities and towns, including Jefferson City, Taos and Wardsville.
The projects included: Missouri Boulevard, the Bolivar Street and High Street bridges and the Rex Whitton Expressway in Jefferson City; Route M in Taos; and Route W in Wardsville.
The other impacted cities and towns are: Armstrong, Columbia, Dixon, Fayette, Frankenstein, Glasgow, Hallsville, Osage Beach, Roanoke, Salem, St. Robert, Vienna and Waynesville.
MoDOT is among the agencies that's petitioned Congress for an almost $50 billion in federal stimulus to keep road work going despite the revenue declines.
In his letter in April asking for federal support, McKenna said MoDOT expected to lose 30 percent of its expected revenue over the next 18 months or about $925 million.