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Legislators examine how to fast-track hiring amid chronic staffing shortages • NC Newsline

Even before the short legislative session got underway, North Carolina legislators heard repeatedly from state agencies about double-digit vacancies and the struggle to fill openings. The State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC) has noted that low pay has sent some workers looking for work in the private sector, leaving those remaining under stress and an ever-increasing workload.

On Tuesday, the Senate’s State and Local Government Committee took an initial step in improving the state hiring process by advancing House Bill 223/OSHR/Various SHRA Changes.

The six-page bill makes various changes and directs the State Human Resources Commission to adopt rules that would authorize state agencies to make a conditional job offer as soon as possible after the completion of the job interviews. A prospective candidate could be offered a job contingent upon satisfactory reference checks and a background check, if required.

Notably, HB 223 would eliminate the 21-day waiting period for hiring, according to Rep. George Cleveland (R-Onslow), a primary sponsor of the bill.

Rep. George G. Cleveland
Rep. George G. Cleveland

The bill would also allow a job-seeker the option of having their application considered for future job postings, if they are qualified for a comparable position.

A new section added under proposed committee substitutute for the bill allows the NC Department of Health and Human Services to pilot a program for temporary employees who have been serving DHHS for at least six months. They would receive priority consideration to fill open positions within the department.

The goal of this is to streamline the hiring process for individuals who’ve already been with the department in a time-limited position so that they can more easily become full-time state employees.

At an April hearing, Robyn Whalen, who heads up Central Regional Hospital in Butner, told lawmakers that she needed to be able to offer qualified employees a job on the spot.

NCDHHS reported that Central Regional was operating with 32% of its positions vacant, the equivalent of 579 staffers. The state’s other two mental hospitals have reported similar shortages.

“Again, I’m not going to be a Duke. I’m not going to be a UNC, but I’m thinking like if we got to $70,000, we could make a good starting salary and raise our midpoints, but that will take some funding for that,” Whalen told members in that April hearing.

House Bill 223 does not touch on salaries, but it would allow temporary employees who have been working with DHHS for at least six months to receive preferred consideration. If approved, the pilot program would run from July 1, 2024 to June 30, 2026.

The NC Department of Adult Correction is also looking for flexibility to hire more correction officers and support staff. The starting jobs there can pay between $36,000 and $40,000 a year.

HB 223 won unanimous approval Tuesday and heads next to the Senate Rules Committee.

Committee hearings in the House and Senate and floor votes have been cancelled for the remainder of the week due to the passing of the father of state House Speaker Tim Moore.

Robyn Whalen heads up Central Regional Hospital
Robyn Whalen, who heads up Central Regional Hospital, told lawmakers in April that she needed to be able to offer qualified employees a job on the spot to prevent losing them to other employers. (Photo: NCGA video)

Anna Harden

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