Republican leaders on civil service issues in the House have asked for congressional hearings on the status of agency “reentry” plans while again urging that agencies bring more teleworking employees back to their regular workplaces.
They asked the Oversight and Reform Committee look into questions including “how many agencies have submitted” such plans and “what, if any, is the delay in producing” such plans.
An OMB memo issued in June called for agencies to submit draft plans to OMB by mid-July, and while many agencies reportedly did so, there has been no public accounting of their status. Several agencies have confirmed that their plans, drafted during a lull in Coronavirus infections, had anticipated a phased recall from telework over several months beginning around this time.
However, that has not happened, largely due to spike in Coronavirus infections due to the “delta variant” that began around the time those plans were submitted.
The letter noted that the OMB memo called on agencies to follow the latest CDC guidelines, adding that the current guidelines “include recommendations for proper ventilation, cleaning and disinfecting, testing, and mitigation and prevention. These guidelines do not recommend a continued shut down of in-person services or encourage any lock-down or halt in normal operating capacities.”
The “maximum telework” policy “has outlived its usefulness to protect federal employees and is now causing a serious strain on the American public,” they wrote. “The OPM and the OMB have clearly outlined a pathway to increased physical workplace attendance. Every federal agency should be actively pursuing to meet these standards and increase their physical staff.”
Like similar prior letters from those Republicans and others, the request focused in particular on the reduced in-person services at SSA offices, stressing that members of the public still are being compelled to send originals of important documents through the mail.