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Lawmakers Look To Shut Down State Employee Giving Program

Credit Steve Buissinne https://pixabay.com/en/users/stevepb-282134/

After the overhead costs to run a state sanctioned employee charity rose to take up about half the contributions made, Florida workers and lawmakers became frustrated—even outraged. Officials are now considering a plan to shut the fund down.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) says the current situation makes no sense.

"How did we as a state land in a place where we privatized the vendor for these contributions via payroll deduction? I think we ended up with a vendor that is out of state," Guillermo Smith says. "They were charging these exorbitant fees. Isn’t the point of outsourcing to save money?  How did we get here?”              

The Department of Management Services oversees the giving campaign. Secretary Chad Poppel says part of that answer is shrinking contributions from employees.

We have tried our very best at the agency to drive down the cost of running the campaign and doing the accounting and the back office functions, but the contributions have declined so rapidly. Again as we stated, this year we took in $280,000 in pledges. I was going to have to spend $180,000 in fiscal agent duties. That was the lowest those fees have ever been, but that’s an unacceptable percentage so I suspended the campaign. I didn’t feel comfortable spending that amount of money,” Poppel says.

But Pace Rep. Jayer Williamson (R-Pace) says that’s not because people are giving less. They’re just changing where and how they give.

“This is the 21 st Century. People are using mobile apps like Venmo to donate. Or they’re going to that charitable organization’s website and they’re giving through that website, which that charitable organization has a third party who regulates that and I guarantee they do that for less than the percentages we’ve been saying. People just aren’t giving through payroll deductions,” Williamson says.

With that in mind, Rep. Clay Yarborough (R-Jacksonville) is pushing a bill that would abolish the state fund and put an end to state-sanctioned charitable giving. It also includes protections Yarborough says are needed to ensure employees aren’t hit by an onslaught of new asks once the state giving program goes away.

"The prohibition would be on having someone say outside your office door trying to solicit someone during work hours in your work place,” Yarborough says.

The bill passed the bill passed the House Government Accountability Committee Thursday with an amendment dubbed the “Thin Mint Amendment.” It would ensure coworkers aren’t prohibited from talking casually with one another about charities they’re involved in or supporting.

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