The Greater Philadelphia YMCA laid off most of its workforce, cutting 4,000 jobs in what appears to be the largest mass layoff in Pennsylvania amid the coronavirus pandemic yet.

Just 61 employees remain across the 16 branches and 12 early-learning centers in the region, and all have taken pay cuts, said President and CEO Shaun Elliott. His pay was cut entirely, and his direct reports’ pay was cut in half.

Of the 4,000 laid-off employees, about 700 were full-time, he said.

Elliott said the pandemic had a severe impact on the Greater Philadelphia YMCA’s operations. He said 90% of the nonprofit’s revenue comes from membership and childcare fees, so revenue dropped “precipitously” when gyms and daycare centers were required to close to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The rest of the organization’s revenue comes from grants and donations.

He said the Y “fully intends” to reopen its branches once it’s safe and allowed by public health officials.

“We had to make this really tough choice,” he said, “so that we could survive as an organization to reopen when it’s possible.”

Employees will be paid through April 5 and will be compensated for accrued and unused vacation days.

The Greater Philadelphia YMCA closed all its local branches, early learning centers, after-school enrichment programs, and community service centers on March 16 in accordance with directives from state officials. Elliott said that since then, they have brought back some employees to work at six sites where the Y is providing childcare to essential workers like hospital employees.

The YMCA building at 17th and Christian Streets in Philadelphia.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
The YMCA building at 17th and Christian Streets in Philadelphia.

The Y offered its members several options, including keeping their membership going as a “donation” or freezing it.

The layoff is the biggest so far this month in Pennsylvania among large employers that have filed notice of mass layoffs with the state. More than two dozen other Pennsylvania companies filed notices, including restaurants, hotels, and gyms, which are among the businesses ravaged by closures, cancellations, and travel restrictions ordered to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The notices are required under a federal law that compels most employers with 100 or more employees to provide advance notice of mass layoffs or plant closures.

The pandemic has already had a massive impact on the economy both locally and across the nation. Over the past week, more than half a million Pennsylvanians filed new unemployment claims, a record figure. And that number doesn’t represent the full scope of joblessness in the commonwealth, as it doesn’t include those ineligible for unemployment insurance, including undocumented workers, gig economy workers, and people who are paid in cash.

Across the country, first-time claims for unemployment benefits soared to 3.3 million, according to data released by federal officials Thursday. The number is more than quadruple the previous record set in 1982.