NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Hundreds of EMT and paramedic jobs hang in the balance in New York City.
They were on the frontlines against COVID-19, but now they're fighting to keep their jobs.
The city lost $9 billion in tax revenue since the start of the pandemic, so Mayor Bill de Blasio is threatening 22,000 municipal worker layoffs, including hundreds of first responders.
These essential workers, union leaders and politicians held a rally Thursday at Foley Square to protest the plan.
"We have been treated as heroes, essential workers, and now we're just basically zeros," EMT Bryon Melo said.
"People did not want to leave their houses, and we were out there. We were all over," said Sgt. Joe Puleo.
"Their thank you from the city of New York is a possible pink slip," added Michael Greco, vice president of Local 2507.
Every day, EMTs and paramedics play a critical role in saving the lives of New Yorkers.
In 2019, before the pandemic hit, the FDNY says EMTs and paramedics responded to more than 1.5 million medical emergencies -- the second highest in its history.
"Our members got sick - 25% either caught or were out at some point," Greco said. "We had four members pass away."
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"EMS is already bone dry. There's no more blood to squeeze out," said Melo.
EMTs are the lowest paid first responders, with their salaries capping out around $50,000 a year.
"You created our cities comeback, you laid the foundation. That is not how we reward people," Comptroller Scott Stringer said.
Paramedics say if hundreds of jobs are cut, the consequences could be dire if the pandemic gets worse and there's a second wave.
The mayor said the layoffs, which were set to take effect Oct. 1, are now on a day-to-day basis as unions pressure lawmakers to approve more funding.
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