The State of Florida, under the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis, has worked aggressively for the last month to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Florida. At the Florida Department of Management Services, we take seriously our mission to serve those who serve Florida, and we have one message to our state employees: we are here for you.
The Florida Department of Management Services remains committed to providing state employees flexibility to care for themselves and their families during these unprecedented times. We must continue working together to serve Floridians and do all we can to support the robust COVID-19 response effort.
As the Secretary of the Department of Management Services, I am charged to administer the State Personnel System which provides personnel guidance to 31 state agencies who support 96,000 employees. I want to first say thank you to the thousands of state employees who are working around the clock, whether that be from a hospital, the State Emergency Operations Center, or from their own homes to serve Floridians during this public health emergency.
Governor DeSantis recognizes and understands that state employees, like all Floridians, are concerned for the safety, health and well-being of themselves, their families, their colleagues, and ultimately their communities. That is why the Governor personally directed our team to take several actions to support state employees.
At the Governor’s direction, our team issued telework guidance to all state agencies on March 13 and we have continued to work with all agencies on implementing this directive. At times, there may be challenges beyond an employee’s job function that impact their ability to telework such as technology, access to internet, or because they serve in an essential role. However, to date, more than 32,000 state employees who have not been activated for COVID-19 are teleworking.
On March 16, we waived the administrative barriers that prevented employees from utilizing any type of leave available as well as sharing leave with one another. This is important because if schools or daycare centers are closed, or elderly parents are homebound because this virus affects the most vulnerable, employees will have leave flexibility to support their families.
Understanding that some positions do require a physical presence in the office to access systems or provide frontline services that provide critical benefits to Floridians, we implemented measures that support social distancing and workplace safety, including restricted visitor access to state buildings, increased cleaning in employee office space, and use of flexible work schedules.
At the direction of the Governor, we’ve eliminated barriers for State Group Insurance Plan Members to access telehealth benefits and expanded access to immunizations. Earlier this week, the Governor also waived statutory prohibitions to enable recent or upcoming retirees of the Florida Retirement System who possess critical institutional knowledge and expertise to re-join or continue to support aggressive response efforts to serve Floridians during this critical time without jeopardizing their retirement.
Finally, we are working alongside the Federal Government to implement provisions included in H.R. 6201, The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides specific Family Medical Leave Act benefits and up to 80 hours of additional emergency paid leave for employees who have been impacted by or are caring for someone who has been impacted by COVID-19.
At the Governor’s direction, I recently issued an emergency order to ensure that the new federal benefits are available to employees. The order provides greater benefits than the federal bill by authorizing emergency paid sick leave at the full rate of pay rather than subjecting employees’ pay to federal caps, ensuring full allotment of Emergency Family and Medical Leave without federal caps and ensuring healthcare providers and emergency responders have access to full benefits.
We continue to do everything we can to serve those who serve Florida. If someone is not getting the help they need, they can contact me at [email protected]. Our team is here to serve.
Jonathan R. Satter is the Secretary of the Florida Department of Management Services. With his recent appointment by Governor DeSantis in 2019, he has served the State of Florida in various capacities under four governors.