Nov. 22 (UPI) -- More than 300 government employees in Chicago learned they would lose their jobs just two days before Thanksgiving, due to budget cuts.
Cook County commissioners voted unanimously for a $5.2 billion budget that required 321 public employees be cut, the Chicago Tribune reported. The lay-offs are expected to begin next month.
County officials blamed the slimmed-down budget on the repeal of a penny per ounce soft drink tax that was repealed this year.
"Laying off more than 300 of our hardworking and dedicated employees is extremely difficult," Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. "Behind every layoff there is a person, and often a family with bills to pay. You heard from some of those people today, and it was heartbreaking."
Several employees who will lose their jobs attended the county board meeting Tuesday to plead for commissioners to not vote for the job-slashing budget.
"I'm a single mother," said Eboni McLemore, an employee in Cook County's juvenile courts system, according to CBS Chicago. "Just please find some other resources because this would be so detrimental, not just to me but to all my brothers and sisters in juvenile probation."
Most of the jobs cut were from the criminal justice system, including 156 jobs in the court system and 100 from the Cook County Sheriff's Department. An additional 34 jobs in the hospital system and 15 from the board president's office were also cut.
Tysha Franklin, another juvenile courts system employee who will lose her job, suggested officials find more creative ways to generate tax revenue.
"If they have to legalize marijuana, I'll start smoking it to pay for the tax," she said.