Amtrak to Cut Up to 20 Percent Of Jobs By October Due to Pandemic

Amtrak is planning to lay off up to 20 percent of its workforce by October due to severe financial impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amtrak President and CEO Bill Flynn said that the cuts would be necessary in a memo sent to employees on Tuesday, after the U.S. passenger train service sent a letter to Congress seeking additional funding to maintain "minimum service levels" in the 2021 fiscal year. The anticipated layoffs are part of an overall budget reduction plan that the organization's board approved last Friday.

"An essential adjustment we must make... is to reduce our workforce by up to 20%," Flynn wrote. "This reduction is necessary to ensure we have a sustainable Amtrak that can continue to make critical investments in our core and long-term growth strategies, while also keeping safety as our top priority."

"We are currently working to finalize a plan for achieving these workforce reductions," Flynn continued. "We understand that this activity will cause stress in the organization."

The company is slashing approximately $500 million from its budget in order to offset losses, including $350 from adjustments to the workforce. The rail service employs over 18,000 people.

An Amtrak employee directs passengers to board a train at Union Station in Washington, DC on November 27, 2019. Alex Wong/Getty

Although the exact plan for the layoffs is not yet clear, Flynn told employees they will be offered incentives to voluntarily retire or quit before the company is forced to "resort to involuntary separations."

In February, Amtrak asked Congress for $2 billion in its annual grant request to Congress. After the pandemic hit, it received over $1 billion in emergency funding from the CARES Act.

Flynn said that Amtrak revenues had declined by 95 percent since the pandemic began. The company expects to feel the financial impact of the virus for an extended period, anticipating a 50 percent reduction in revenue during the upcoming fiscal year, which begins October 1.

Flynn asked for an additional $1.475 billion to aid operations and "continue capital investments for the future" in a Monday letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, in his capacity as president of the Senate. The company said the extra money is needed to avoid inflicting further workforce and service cuts.

"It is clear that Amtrak faces daunting challenges in Fiscal Year 2021, which will require us to take action to protect our rail network, our critical capital assets, and the livelihoods of our employees," Flynn wrote.

"With the Federal Government's continued support, I am confident that Amtrak can minimize the negative impacts ... eventually Amtrak will be able to return as a company of growth and improvement as we have demonstrated over the past decade," he added.

Newsweek reached out to Amtrak for comment. This article will be updated with any response.