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Houston Museum of Natural Science furloughs 70% of staff, reduces salaries

The museum, like most public places around the world, closed last month as a "stay-at-home" order got underway in Houston.

Editor's note: The above video from early March 2020 reports on some of the first confirmed coronavirus cases in Houston, reported after a museum-planned trip to Egypt.

HOUSTON — Heartbreaking news this morning from the museum district where the Houston Museum of Natural Science has announced furloughs and salary reductions.

The museum released a statement Thursday that indicated 70% of its staff would be temporarily let go with the hopes that, post coronavirus pandemic, they can "reassemble" the team. Those staffers not furloughed, 144 people, will take a 15% pay cut.

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Benefits will remain in place for furloughed employees until May 31.

The museum, like most public places around the world, closed last month as Houston's "stay-at-home" order got underway. There is no scheduled reopening date at this time.

The museum was associated with some of the first coronavirus cases in our area in early March after a trip to Egypt. March 10th the City of Houston asked 35 travelers to self-quarantine for two weeks after coming back from a trip to Egypt planned by HMNS. The trip was planned more than a year ago by the museum, and the group, including two staff members, were in Egypt from Feb. 24 through March 9.

Statement on Houston Museum of Natural Science Workforce Actions in Response to COVID-19

Like many non-profit and for-profit organizations across the country, the Houston Museum of Natural Science is adjusting to the challenging circumstances resulting from the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and the consequent shut down of the economy. 

Given the significant financial impact on our organization, we are continually evaluating expenses, re-defining objectives and streamlining processes to ensure that the museum is able to resume operations once this crisis has passed.

As part of that process, we have arrived at the difficult decision to furlough 337 employees, 70% of our total staff, effective immediately. 

All furloughed employees remain eligible for health insurance and other benefits until at least May 31st.

We also strongly encourage all furloughed employees to file for unemployment benefits and to take advantage of all other “safety net” programs —including those that may provide deferment/forgiveness of student loans, credit card payments, rent & mortgage payments, utilities, insurance and more. 

In addition, the pay of all remaining 144 employees will also be reduced by at least 15% effective immediately; and we will continue to monitor the city-, state- and nation-wide situation as it develops and take additional actions if warranted.

Our goal is to emerge from this crisis stronger than ever, and to re-assemble our world-class team, all of whom are part of the HMNS family. Their skills, passion, knowledge and commitment built HMNS, and it is our firm belief that we will soon be able to welcome them back—along with our members and visitors—to the Houston Museum of Natural Science in the very near future.

If anyone would like to assist HMNS in accomplishing that goal sooner than later, please visit us at www.hmns.org.

Joel A. Bartsch, HMNS President