Tennessee implements hiring freeze for state government

The state Capitol was closed to visitors on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

New Finance Commissioner Butch Eley has announced a state hiring freeze in a memo to department heads. Exceptions include “mission critical areas necessary for the public welfare.” Promotions, demotions, and transfers within agencies are not covered by the freeze unless they lead to an increase in the employee count. Departments are also instructed to put off equipment purchases not related to the COVID-19 response or work-from-home initiatives

Here’s the full memo sent out late last week:

To: All Agency Heads, Budget Officers, and Human Resources Officers
From: Butch Eley, Commissioner of Finance and Administration
Juan Williams, Commissioner of Human Resources
Date: April 23, 2020
Subject: Financial Management Policy

The economic effects of the worldwide public health crisis brought on by COVID-19 will ripple through the state’s economy and have a negative impact on the state budget. Prudent financial management therefore requires that each agency begin to restrain discretionary spending for the balance of fiscal year 2019-2020 and until further notice. Effective immediately, state agencies shall adhere to the following financial management policies.

  1. Hiring Freeze – A hiring freeze is imposed on vacant positions. Exceptions will be allowed in mission critical areas necessary for the public welfare and for the welfare of persons under care or custody of the state. Approval of a separate freeze exception justification letter by the Commissioner of Human Resources is required before filling any vacant position, unless blanket freeze approval is granted by the Commissioner of Human Resources for the two categories specified above. The hiring freeze does not apply to promotions, demotions, and transfers within an agency, provided that there is no increase in the employee count within the agency as a result of such transactions.
  2. Temporary Services Contractual Services – The hiring freeze also is imposed on hiring of temporary services workers through the statewide temporary services contract. The provisions of item 1 above shall apply as to exceptions and the process for approval.
  3. Equipment Purchases – A freeze is imposed on equipment purchases not necessary for the state’s COVID-19 response and working from home initiative. Agency heads should review equipment purchases in process and those planned for later in the current and next fiscal years to determine if they are required to address an emergency or otherwise essential circumstance. Justification of equipment purchase requests requiring approval of the Commissioner of Finance and Administration or the Budget Office should be limited to the circumstances stated in this paragraph and must be accompanied by a justification letter from the agency head. The justification letter should be addressed to the Commissioner of Finance and Administration and be submitted to the Budget Office at the time the requisition or purchase order is submitted.
  4. Other Program Requirements — Agencies must manage the expenditure of all other program funds as conservatively as possible. Agency heads should restrain any discretionary spending which will not disrupt mandatory program service delivery, and which will not circumvent the legislative intent in the appropriation of funds.

Thank you for your efforts during these difficult times.

6 Responses to Tennessee implements hiring freeze for state government

  • Avatar
    Cannoneer2 says:

    Same tune, different excuse. I’ll bet that any high level executive positions that open up will be quickly filled. Same for any legislative positions.

  • Avatar
    Phil Lassiter says:

    Good. Webbed those jobs. My state job has saved my butt. Just need a second round of stimulus

  • Avatar
    LeeAnn C. says:

    This should have happened upon immediate shut down of small businesses. Good opportunity for the Governor to take appropriate executive action to request thinning out unnecessary government positions. Instead, he’s still stubbornly UNemploying hundreds of thousands of Tennessee residents. The emergency status of this response has turned out to be an overreaction. Time to let the lawmaking return to the legislature and put the Governor back in the ‘executive’ branch.

  • Avatar
    Dr. Steve Highlander says:

    Thank you for being cautious with taxpayer dollars.

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