Public Employees Federation President Wayne Spence at the New York State Capitol March in 2023. | Times Union

Governor Extends New York HELP Program Across the State

4 mins read

The New York State Civil Service Department is expanding its Hiring for Emergency.

Limited Placement (HELP) Program for healthcare jobs to all state civil service agencies. The program began in May 2023, temporarily waiving civil service exam requirements for state direct care, health and human service, and safety jobs across the state. The program was set to expire at the end of April 2024, but it will be replaced by the NY Statewide (HELPS) Program, which will expand the original program to all State Government agencies.

The original program was implemented due to large vacancies within public sector agencies following the pandemic. With the state’s overall workforce facing a decline of over 1% from 

2011, Governor Kathy Hochul has determined that swift changes need to be made. 

“When public sector employees leave jobs, there are not just vacancies, but also fewer people in the pipeline to fill them,” said Alexander Reichl, associate professor of political science. “On balance, it seems reasonable to relax the civil service requirements in a crunch and restore them when the workforce shortage is over.”

Though the program provides an opportunity for all New Yorkers to enter the public sector workforce, many union representatives have expressed concerns over the possibility of a new wave of employees gaining senior positions without having taken civil service exams — a possibility that many consider unfair to certified employees who had waited to receive senior positions for long periods of time.

Wayne Spence, the President of the Public Employees Federation (PEF), expressed his concerns about staffing substitutions as a result of the program:

“Some agencies, such as the Office of Information Technology Services (ITS) and the Department of Financial Services (DFS) want to bring new employees who have not taken a Civil Service Exam into promotions, but many current state employees who had taken the exam have been waiting two years, five years, or more for the same position. We’ve tried to put language in to ensure that won’t happen, but the agencies are pushing back, saying that the language is strangulating, and that IT are so fast-moving that it requires new workers consistently to keep up. I’m not buying that. Why not offer trainings or create a new exam. People who have been with the agencies should not have their promotional opportunities stepped on by the state.”

Though President Spence is concerned about the potential for new employees recruited through the HELPS Program, he is also supportive of the program’s mission to provide an opportunity to enter state agencies to new employees and to mitigate the state-wide staffing shortages. 

“I am hoping that the HELPS program will get people into state employment a lot faster and that at a later date, they can take the exams and become productive Civil Servants, and provide relief to the many state workers who are doing the work of ten people because of the shortage.”

Both Professor Reichl and President Spence have also expressed their anticipation of more CUNY students entering the state workforce through the opportunities of the HELPS Program.

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