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The New York subway system is so short on staff that about 8-10% of overcrowded trains were canceled from August to September – an unusually high rate due to the pandemic.

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“We acknowledge that we’ve lost a lot of employees. We’re doing everything we can to get them back,” says Demetrius Critchlow, NYC’s senior vice president of Subway. “We’re encouraging people to come to work, giving back paid vacation time.”

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More than 66,000 people are employed by the MTA and about 5,000 have survived since the start of the pandemic, and officials are now offering retirees who have worked in the past three years up to $35,000 for three months of work. left it.

The MTA is pushing for another round of emergency federal aid, but the agency hopes these incentives will help bridge that gap until the money arrives.

“We want to see if we can bring back some of our experience, train operators and conductors,” says Critchlow. “To strengthen our employees.”

The incentive program was launched last week and 700 letters were sent to the retired MTA employees to get back to work.

There is also an upcoming deadline for employees to prove their vaccination status or comply with weekly testing to work. According to the New York Daily News, nearly 60% of MTA workers have received at least one shot of the vaccine—at least 171 workers have died from COVID-19.