Kansas governor plans to combat 24/7 facility staffing shortages with pay initiative

By: - November 23, 2021 5:17 pm

Gov. Laura Kelly announced a plan Tuesday to fund long-term and temporary pay initiatives in an effort to ease staffing shortages at 24/7 facilities. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Kansas state employees at several 24/7 state facilities are the beneficiaries of a new pay initiative aimed at reducing staffing shortages, Gov. Laura Kelly announced Tuesday.

The effort provides long-term and temporary pay increases for employees at facilities in the Kansas Department of Corrections, state hospitals under the Department for Aging and Disability Services, and Kansas Commission of Veterans Affairs Office veterans’ homes. Kelly’s plan includes a permanent base pay increase and temporary pay differentials — extra compensation for employees during staffing shortages.

“Even after implementing a pay increase for corrections officers in 2019, Kansas, like the rest of the country, faced new challenges caused by COVID-19,” Kelly said. “This new pay plan is a necessary step to address the ongoing challenges brought on by the pandemic, support our efforts to prioritize public health and safety, and care for our most vulnerable populations.”

States across the U.S. are experiencing similar challenges with critically low staffing levels in 24/7 facilities. States including Nebraska, Florida and Arkansas have implemented pay plan designs to address similar shortages.

The Kansas plan includes base pay increases for all KDOC job classes and nursing jobs, temporary pay differential for all 24/7 facility staff, KDOC security staff at these facilities, nursing staff at 24/7 facilities, and all staff working at 24/7 facilities with critical staffing levels. There will also be a one-time $3,500 bonus for salaried staff at KDOC, KDADS and KCVAO 24/7 facilities.

“These raises and pay differentials mean frontline workers like corrections officers and state hospital staff could finally get the safe staffing levels they need and proper pay for their unthinkable sacrifices on behalf of Kansans,” said Sarah LaFrenz, president of the Kansas Organization of State Employees. “As facilities around the nation face a staffing crisis that endangers the public, workers and their families — this plan shows real leadership by making this crisis and addressing it an actual priority.”

The pay increases will be phased in with the base-pay increases beginning Nov. 28. Kelly will issue an executive order to authorize the pay increases, which will be paid for through existing agency funds. The governor will need to work with Legislative leadership to fund the rest of the pay plan.

Additionally, Kelly ordered KDOC to purchase new multi-threat tactical safety vests for all corrections officers who work in 24/7 facilities.

“The governor’s pay plan recognizes the incredible contributions of our employees to public safety and provides a great incentive to retain their experience and commitment within the organization while providing an opportunity for relief as more job seekers join them in our workforce,” KDOC Secretary Jeff Zmuda said.

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Noah Taborda
Noah Taborda

Noah Taborda started his journalism career in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri, covering local government and producing an episode of the podcast Show Me The State while earning his bachelor’s degree in radio broadcasting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Noah then made a short move to Kansas City, Missouri, to work at KCUR as an intern on the talk show Central Standard and then in the newsroom, reporting on daily news and feature stories.