The Metropolitan Museum of Art laid off dozens more of its workers on Wednesday and reduced its ranks even further through furloughs and voluntary retirements, leaving the museum with a staff that is about 20 percent smaller than it was before the pandemic.
The coronavirus has kept the museum closed since March and prompted an initial wave of more than 80 layoffs in April. Adding on this new wave of staff cuts means that the Met will have an employee count of about 1,600, a dramatic drop from about 2,000 in March.
According to a memo sent out to the Met’s staff on Wednesday, 79 staff members were laid off, in addition to 93 who took the option to voluntarily retire. Another 181 employees were furloughed. The museum told staff that they expect that the furloughs will last no longer than six months.
The museum made the decision on the number of people furloughed based on the fact that even after it opens its doors, the number of visitors will likely be significantly lower than before the pandemic. The museum plans to open for five days a week, for example, compared to its typical seven-day week before the shutdown started.
The Met had previously announced a reopening date of Aug. 29, but museum officials acknowledge that the timing is subject to change. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo surprised administrators by announcing last month that museums would not be allowed to open in Phase 4, which started on July 20.
“We recognize that the Museum that we will return to — whenever that may be — will be very different from what we left behind only six months ago,” the museum’s chief executive, Dan Weiss, said in a statement.
In the note to staff, Mr. Weiss and Max Hollein, the museum’s director, said that museum officials had done what they could to stave off these cuts through actions like a hiring freeze and cuts to museum programs. A spokesman said that Mr. Weiss and Mr. Hollein took a 20 percent pay cut, while other executives received a 10 percent pay cut.
The museum has said that it also changed the formula for how it spends the earnings of its more than $3 billion endowment, siphoning $25 million that would typically be used for specific purposes like acquiring art and putting it toward operating expenses.
Factoring in five months of flatlined revenue from areas like admissions, retail and events, as well as the predicted reduction of visitors, a spokesman said that the museum estimates that it will lose $150 million in revenue.
A spokesman for the museum said that the cuts occurred across the museum — though they were deeper in the retail, visitor services and security departments. Among the staff members whose positions have been cut during the pandemic, 48 percent are people of color. (Forty-three percent of the museum’s total staff members are people of color.)
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 4, 2020
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?
- The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
Should I refinance my mortgage?
- It could be a good idea, because mortgage rates have never been lower. Refinancing requests have pushed mortgage applications to some of the highest levels since 2008, so be prepared to get in line. But defaults are also up, so if you’re thinking about buying a home, be aware that some lenders have tightened their standards.
What is school going to look like in September?
- It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
“We share the pain and sadness we will all feel across the Museum saying goodbye to so many of our friends and colleagues impacted by the position eliminations,” Mr. Weiss and Mr. Hollein said in the staff memo.
Other art museums around the country are also coming to terms with potentially steep reductions in ticket sales when they are eventually able to open their doors and cutting staff. The Philadelphia Museum of Art told staff on Tuesday that it would be laying off 85 employees, in addition to 42 who had accepted voluntary separation agreements, cutting the museum’s employees by about 23 percent, a spokesman for the museum said.
And in Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts announced on Monday that it had laid off 57 employees; about the same number of people also chose to retire early.