Florida’s state workforce overwhelmed by workload

State has 86 full-time employees for every 10,000 residents; national average is 168

Gov. Ron DeSantis issues new executive order amid coronavirus pandemic
Gov. Ron DeSantis issues new executive order amid coronavirus pandemic

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A report produced by the state of Florida shows it has the lowest number of state employees per capita than any other state and only half of the national average.

In good times, the size of the state’s public workforce has been a point of pride. But with the outbreak of COVID-19, it’s now contributing to a shortage of people during what officials are calling a public health emergency.

A checkpoint set up on Interstate 10 in Pensacola is stopping incoming drivers from Louisiana. Motorists are being told self-isolate for 14 days. But state officials say the stoppage won’t impact commercial truck drivers.

“Commercial traffic will remain going straight on the interstate,” said Stephanie Kopelousos, legislative director for Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Another checkpoint established north of Jacksonville is screening drivers coming in from the Northeast. The goal is to stop drivers who are arriving from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

“What we don’t want is for people to flee that hot zone and bring the virus here,” DeSantis said.

The checkpoints follow an executive order issued by the governor last week that aims to vet air travelers who are arriving from the same tri-state region. They’re given brochures and must submit to a series of questions.

But other highways into Florida and smaller, regional airports with connecting flights from the Northeast are not being monitored. When asked about that, DeSantis acknowledged the gaps aren’t ideal.

“Hey look, I think it’s a problem,” the governor said. “But if they can help us with that, the airports and working with the airlines, I think it’s in everybody’s interest.”

Part of the problem is a shortage of state employees. The state’s own information shows Florida has the lowest number of state employees per capita of any state in the country.

In fact, Florida has 86 full-time employees for every 10,000 residents. That’s compared to the national average, which is 168, or nearly twice as many as Florida.

On Monday, the governor signed an executive order allowing retired law enforcement to return to work without sitting out six months, which is typically required by law.

“I will suspend that prohibition,” DeSantis said. “We need to have folks who are willing to return to service.”

The shortage isn’t just in law enforcement — it’s also impact unemployment, health care and other critical needs.

The governor is urging residents in South Florida to be “safer at home,” telling them to shelter in place through mid-May in four counties there.