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Essence magazine furloughing staff amid pandemic

Essence magazine furloughing staff amid pandemic
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Essence magazine, a renowned publication that has been committed to covering the Black woman experience since 1970, announced this week that it will be furloughing some staff to offset the “significant negative impact” of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Six months into an unprecedented and continuing global pandemic, COVID-19 has had a broader and longer-lasting impact than anyone expected – and Essence Communications, Inc. (“ECI”) has not been immune to it,” the magazine said in an announcement on Tuesday. 

“Nonetheless, our commitment to successfully guiding this iconic brand through these immediate challenges and forward is unwavering. Our team and the community we serve are too important. The culture we reflect and create is too important,” the publication continued. “The platforms we’ve built for the celebration, inspiration and empowerment of Black women and communities are too important. This is why we are making the business decisions we are making today.”

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While the magazine, which is Black-owned, said in the announcement it was able to put off furloughs toward the start of the pandemic earlier this year “via significant personal investments from ownership along with limited PPP funds,” it added that the “prolonged situation and unforeseeable business now require us to take additional action to ensure the long-term sustainability of ECI.” 

The media company said impacted team members were informed of the move on Tuesday. While the magazine said “no furloughed employee will perform any work on behalf of ECI during this period,” it added that it “will pay everyone impacted throughout this week and will cover their medical benefits premiums throughout the furlough.”

“We will remain in touch with all of those impacted to provide relevant and pertinent updates regarding this matter as we have them,” the magazine said. “We do not anticipate that any furloughs will exceed six (6) months. We are confident that the actions we are taking now will help ensure that ESSENCE is here to thrive for another 50+ years as an independent Black-owned media business.”

Essence is one of a number of media companies that have announced furloughs this year due to the pandemic, which Johns Hopkins University data shows has resulted in more than 7.2 million cases of the disease in the United States in a matter of months as well as more than 206,000 deaths.

The COVID Tracking Project, which has been gathering racial data about the pandemic in the United States, found that Black people are dying from the novel coronavirus at more than double the rate of white people in the country. 

A study released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York also found last month that Black-owned small businesses have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic compared with others in the U.S.