OPM has approved a waiver of biweekly premium pay limits for federal employees responding to a call by HHS for employees of other agencies to volunteer for temporary details to work in its Unaccompanied Children Program at the southern border, even as several leading Republicans on Capitol Hill have raised questions about those assignments.
“The presence of unaccompanied children at the southern border has given rise to an unusual set of circumstances that requires use of volunteers from other agencies, in addition to HHS, to assist with the urgent needs being addressed under the HHS UC Program,” OPM said in a memo. It said that situation justifies a waiver of the biweekly cap and applying only the annual cap, starting when they began such duties—including retroactively to March 25 when OPM authorized them—until the employees “return to their home agencies or resume their normal duties.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the House government operations subcommittee, has asked OPM and OMB for an accounting of employees serving on such details, which can last up to 120 days. He asked for specifics of their home agencies, job titles and expected length of the details along with an “analysis of the impact of such details on the sending agencies/departments and performance of the volunteer’s original duties.”
Also, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, raised concerns—at a confirmation hearing for OPM director nominee Kiran Ahuja—about the qualifications of employees who take such details to work with children. Ahuja cited the suitability reviews that those employees undergo but said she would follow up on that issue if confirmed to lead OPM.