Division of Emergency Management employees that received extraordinary pay for COVID-19 in a week cannot also receive extraordinary pay for Hurricane Sally.
Extraordinary pay involving the pandemic, which has put the Division’s Emergency Operations Center on its highest alert level for more than 200 days, is already the longest extraordinary pay period in state history. Never before has a state agency offered two simultaneous extraordinary pay lines.
With Sally, DEM Director Jared Moskowitz turned on extraordinary pay for employees that are weren’t already tasked with COVID-19 response.
Emails obtained by Florida Politics show the policy outlined by the Division apply to career service personnel, who are the majority of employees, and selected exempt service employees, which include middle management workers. Those additional hours instead count toward regular hours, according to DEM’s Deputy Director Kevin Guthrie.
“If you are CS/SES and you are claiming more than 6 hours in extraordinary pay per week in COVID-19 extraordinary pay, you are not eligible for Sally extraordinary pay,” reads one of Guthrie’s emails.
Similar to overtime, extraordinary pay is 1.5 times the rate of regular pay.
“If you do not routinely receive COVID-19 extraordinary pay you may charge your hours to code 1016 Extraordinary pay for Hurricane Sally. Any hours worked for Hurricane Sally will go on your code 1000 regular hours line,” reads a follow-up email.
Other personal services employees, who work hourly, are still eligible for overtime regardless of whether the work was for COVID-19 or Sally.
DEM has played a leading role in the state’s COVID-19 response, including operating drive-thru and walk-in testing sites and mobile testing services. Hurricane season has exacerbated the workload placed on DEM employees. The Division was already at its top activation level when hurricane season began in June, marking the first time the division entered the usual busy period at that readiness level.
At Level 1, called a full scale activation, DEM personnel and all emergency support functions are activated at the emergency operations center.
Through Wednesday, 690,499 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Florida and 13,782 have died.
On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted his appreciation for DEM employees and workers from other agencies involved in the pandemic response.
“The men and women working out of the State Emergency Operations Center have been working 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, for 6 months. Thank you for your sacrifice & service!” he wrote.
Facing questions over why not all employees could invoice extraordinary pay for both disasters, Mowskowitz pointed to the $450,000 pay raise given exclusively to DEM employees during the 2019 Legislative Session. He introduced that legislative priority upon taking the helm of the Division after employees battled hurricanes for years and after they lost their cost-of-living adjustments.
And citing the extensive extraordinary pay period, Mowskowitz said he had been “very liberal on extraordinary pay,” calling the sum of his actions “testament to what the employees of the Division of Emergency Management do.”
Extraordinary pay is an optional state agency function. The Director did not turn on extraordinary pay when Hurricane Isaias brushed Florida’s Atlantic coast over the summer even though employees worked the weekend. Employees did receive extraordinary pay for Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
However, Moskowitz said the number of employees potentially impacted by the policy is “a mixed bag” and relatively minimal. Many employees have transitioned away from the COVID-19 response.
“No one complained to me. No one complained to my Chief of Staff,” Moskowitz said.
Department executives, including Moskowitz, are not receiving extraordinary pay.