With a deadline looming at the end of the week for state employees to apply for permission to work from home, Virginia lost the head of the state personnel agency that handles applications.
A spokesperson for Governor Glenn Youngkin said Monday that Emily Elliott retired as director of the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management, the state agency that oversees compensation, benefits and services for more than 122,000 state employees.
Rue Collins White, the agency’s longtime deputy director, will serve as acting director, Youngkin’s publicist Macaulay Porter said in a message confirming Elliott’s retirement and thanking her. “for his service to the Commonwealth and DHRM”.
Elliott is not the only state agency chief to leave the Youngkin administration under letters expiring 120 days that allowed them to continue in office during the transition to a new governor. Sunday was the 120th day since Youngkin’s inauguration on January 15.
Porter also confirmed Monday that Karen Kimsey stepped down as director of the Department of Medical Assistance Services at the end of last week. Cheryl Roberts, the agency’s deputy director of program and operations, will serve as acting agency director of Medicaid at a crucial time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state agency is set to undertake a massive determination of Medicaid health care eligibility for 2 million Virginians once the federal government ends the public health emergency declared after the start of the pandemic more than 26 months ago.
The US Department of Health and Human Services has not yet decided when to end the public health emergency, but has pledged to give states at least 60 days notice. After the emergency ends, states that have received additional federal emergency assistance will have up to 12 months to determine if recipients are still eligible.
While some departures are masked by retirement, leaders who served at the pleasure of the governor can receive state severance pay for involuntary separation under the Workforce Transition Act, created there. over 25 years ago under the then government. George Allen in his efforts to reduce the size of state government.
“Some officials and agency heads have graciously offered to stay beyond their scheduled departure date, during the governor’s team transition and we thank them for their generosity,” Porter said last week in anticipation of the expiry of the letters of 120 days.
The transition is often bumpy for heads of state agencies, especially when the governorship changes political parties, but even between the same party.
Elliott had worked at the Virginia Department of Transportation for 24 years before the then governor. Ralph Northam chose her in mid-2018 to replace Sara Redding Wilson. Wilson had led DHRM for 20 years under six governors, from Republican Jim Gilmore to Democrat Northam.
White, who had worked as deputy chief under Wilson, also served as the agency’s acting director for three months before Elliott’s appointment.
The human resources agency has been the subject of a bipartisan campaign by the General Assembly to improve compensation and benefits to retain state employees, as well as to recruit and retain them. new ones, despite wide disparities between what public employees earn for many jobs and their private counterparts.
The timing of Elliott’s departure is awkward, as DHRM prepares to receive applications from tens of thousands of executive branch workers to work remotely under a new policy Youngkin launched a while ago. almost two weeks.
Friday is the deadline for all employees to apply for permission to work from home under the old policy, which replaces all existing telecommuting agreements. Under the new policy, agency heads can allow employees to work one day a week from home, as well as allow up to two weeks of remote work in the event of family emergencies and other unforeseen circumstances. .
But beyond that, the approval of the relevant Cabinet Secretary is required for an employee to work from home two days a week. Requests to work more than two days a week must go through Youngkin’s chief of staff, Jeff Goettman.
Under the policy, Youngkin plans to review all telework requests by June 3 and process all of them by June 30 to take effect July 5.
It’s unclear how many telecommuting agreements will be replaced because DHRM said last week it didn’t know how many state employees were working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, when most agencies of the State temporarily closed and forced them to rely on teleworking.
In 2018-2019, about a quarter of executive branch jobs were telecommuting-eligible and only 19% of those workers were allowed to work remotely, but telecommuting has become an imperative during the pandemic and an advantage in a labor market tense.
For example, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership lists telecommuting among the incentives it offers companies to relocate or expand their operations in the state.
“Many companies across the United States are shifting a significant portion of their workforce to permanent telecommuting,” the partnership says. “This wave of increased telecommuting will also affect how companies make decisions when evaluating locations for future projects.”
In addition to DHRM, Youngkin’s new telecommuting policy will rely on the Virginia Information Technologies Agency, or VITA. It has also undergone a drastic change in management since Youngkin took over in mid-January.
After the new governor replaced Nelson Moe as chief information officer and chief of the agency, chief operating officer Jon Ozovek resigned in February and new CIO Phil Wittmer left after less than a year. a month of work.
Youngkin replaced Wittmer with Rob Osmond, a Department of Transport technology expert, but Ozovek’s temporary replacement, deputy chief executive Demetrias Rodgers, resigned last week.
PHOTOS: Grand Reopening of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture