Houston convention agency announces layoffs, furloughs amid coronavirus downturn

The George R. Brown Convention Center is one of several venues operated by the Houston First Corp. (Courtesy Visit Houston)
The George R. Brown Convention Center is one of several venues operated by the Houston First Corp. (Courtesy Visit Houston)

The George R. Brown Convention Center is one of several venues operated by the Houston First Corp. (Courtesy Visit Houston)

As the coronavirus spread continues to stifle business and personal travel, a round of layoffs and furloughs was announced June 30 for employees of Houston’s city-owned convention centers and entertainment venues.

Houston First, the corporation in charge of private funds and funds from Houston’s hotel occupancy tax, issued a statement that a 48 employees will be furloughed and 38 laid off beginning July 6.

Remaining employees making more than $50,000 will also face a salary reduction, according to the release. The reductions represent 36% of the corporation's employees.

“The majority of HFC’s operating revenue is generated by meetings and conventions, business travel and leisure visitation, which have been devastated by the pandemic, but HFC is resilient,” the statement read.

The furloughs and layoffs affect employees in various roles including account executives, managers, ticketing agents and food and beverage managers, a Houston First spokesperson said.

During a Houston City Council public session on the same day as the announcement, convention workers called in expressing concerns over their insurance status should they be called in to work during the upcoming Texas Republican convention at the George R. Brown convention Center July 16-18. They said they perceive that gathering as a risk for spreading the coronavirus.

In its statement, Houston First said laid-off employees will receive severance packages, and furloughed employees will maintain their health insurance coverage. A spokesperson also told Community Impact Newspaper the layoffs and furloughs do not affect previous plans for staffing the Republican convention.
By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


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