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Eckerd Connects issues layoff notice for over 230 local employees

Veronica Brezina

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Eckerd Connects office, at 8550 Ulmerton Road in Largo. GoogleMaps.

Foster care services provider Eckerd Connects was recently fired by the state and is winding down a certain arm of its operations. 

A Clearwater-based private organization contracted through the state to offer foster and child care services in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties, Eckerd Connects notified the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity that it will lay off over 230 employees Dec. 31. 

The layoff notice follows the Department of Children and Families deciding not to renew Eckerd Connects’ $80 million contract to provide services in Pasco and Pinellas counties. There is a separate $87 million contract for Hillsborough, which will not be renewed. 

“We are providing as much notice as is practicable under the circumstances and given the rapid pace at which this situation has developed,” the company’s Chief People Officers wrote in the letter to the state. 

On. Nov. 4, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced an investigation into Eckerd Connects, alleging that children in the company’s care had been allowed to sleep overnight inside the Eckerd Connects administrative building, which is not licensed for foster care.

“Eckerd Connects takes extremely seriously the investigation announced by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. While we do not believe Eckerd Connects has violated any laws, we intend to cooperate with this investigation. We are committed to serving children and families in the community,” Eckerd said to the St. Pete Catalyst in a prepared statement. 

As a result of the loss of contracts, Eckerd Connects will permanently close its locations in Largo, Dade City and Trinity by year’s end. Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Children and Families notified Eckerd it will find a new provider for the Pinellas and Pasco contract in the next 60 days.

Eckerd Community Alternatives has issued notices to the state for the following layoffs to occur at these locations: 

  • Largo: 197 workers
  • Trinity: 30 workers 
  • Dade City: 4 

“The WARN notices are required by state law to be sent to all affected employees in any situation like this when a contract is ending. However, along with sending the required notices, Eckerd also informed affected employees that it is in ongoing discussions with the Florida Department of Children and Families regarding future employment opportunities for the employees with a new vendor,” Eckerd wrote in a prepared statement. “In previous transitions of state contracts, our experience has been that more than 90% of staff have been hired by the new provider. Eckerd Connects expects more information on this in the next three to four weeks.”

There is no union representing the affected employees, according to the letters. 

Eckerd Connects took over foster care in Pinellas and Pasco in 2008 and began Hillsborough services in 2014.

“Eckerd Connects’ will continue to focus on our mission of providing children in need with safe, stable living environments. We will continue to work collaboratively with the DCF and other stakeholders as we fulfill our contract and help ensure a smooth transition to a new service provider for Pinellas and Pasco counties,” Eckerd wrote in a statement. 

Eckerd Community Alternatives will continue its job core programming. 

Additionally, Olde Management Group, an employment agency that works with Eckerd, notified the state that 49 of its employees will covert to Eckerd’s Youth Alternatives Inc. 

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