Low salaries create state government hiring crisis

Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 6:26 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAP NEWS/WCJB ) - Virtually every area of state government is facing a hiring crisis due to low salaries. Presentations by Juvenile Justice, Children and Families and Corrections show high turnover, and as Mike Vasilinda tells us, fewer and fewer job applicants.

A chart, presented to lawmakers, shows there are 10,000 fewer people working for the state than prior to the pandemic. Nearly one in five authorized positions is vacant. The burden has been particularly hard on agencies, like Arc of Florida, which serve the most vulnerable.

“It’s really horrible right now,” says Mark Swain, the Board Chair for ARC Florida and the CEO of ARC GAINESVILLE. “We need 174 Direct Service Provider’s to operate safely, and we are 66 short.”

Pre-pandemic an average of 44 people applied for state job postings. Today it is just over 11.

Todd Inman, who is Secretary of management Services for the state told lawmakers “Filling the talent pool is critical”

Juvenile Justice is also having retention problems.

An exchange between Senator Jeff Brandes and Heather DiGiacomo of the Department of Juvenile Justice went like this: “I’ve heard people are leaving detention program to go work at the car wash across the state. Is that correct?”

“I would say that is an accurate statement, yes.”

If there is good news here, it is that lawmakers have just been told that they’re going to have an extra $4 billion to spend over the next two years.

House Democrats Leader Evan Jenne says starving government has been the Republicans way since Jeb Bush.

“He said he wanted to see state government buildings empty, and this is a continued drive towards that,” says Jenne.

For Mark Swain and ARC, understaffing is not a viable option and care is suffering.

“The people who are most vulnerable are really losing out here because the providers just don’t have the staff to take these people in,” Swain told us.

While the Governor has promised raises to move people toward a $15 minimum wage, even $15 an hour these days is filling the vacancies.

Taxpayers aren’t saving money because fewer people are working. Overtime has nearly tripled, from $58 million to $152 million last year.

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