Numerous federal agencies need more money to cover anticipated additional costs of additional telework, overtime and hazardous duty pay related to Coronavirus response efforts, the White House has told Congress.
A request for a budget supplement of nearly $46 billion says that the response effort “has forced agencies to incur unanticipated costs.
These costs must be met with a legislative response to ensure full operational capacity. The aim of this request is to maintain that capacity and ensure that resource needs created by the pandemic response are met.”
The request comes on the heels of an OMB memo telling agencies to begin realigning their activities toward those that are the most mission-critical, which may involve reassigning employees, and limiting face-to-face services – with exceptions for the protection of public health and safety, including law enforcement and criminal-justice functions – while maximizing telework, among other steps.
The request for supplemental funding reveals that current agency budgets cannot absorb the additional IT-related costs of increased telework; more than two dozen agency components, including in parts of Education, Energy, HHS, Interior, Transportation, EPA, VA, SBA, GSA, OPM, and NARA have asked for additional funds for that purpose.
Similarly, additional money has been requested to cover additional costs of: overtime at units of Agriculture, DHS, Interior, Transportation, VA, GSA, SSA and the Railroad Retirement Board; hazard pay at several units of Interior; and costs associated with relocating inspectors and law enforcement personnel at units of Agriculture, Interior and ICE.
The OMB did not provide specifics of how much is being asked for each purpose among many others also included in the supplemental request. Agencies have been increasing the numbers of employees on telework although criticism continues that more still could be done to protect employees in that way.
There have been no publicly reported instances of agencies paying hazardous duty pay or its equivalent environmental differential pay, both an extra 25 percent of salary, due to special working conditions brought on by the Coronavirus, although the request signals that it is a possibility. (The former is for GS employees and the latter is for wage grade employees, although both commonly are generically referred to as hazardous duty pay, so the requested funds would not necessarily be limited to the GS.)
Meanwhile, eight Senate Democrats have urged OPM and OMB to publicly disclose which activities they consider mission-critical, much as contingency plans for an appropriations lapse are posted.
“Such transparency is critical to give citizens confidence in the government response during this difficult time and assure federal employees and contractors that the government is prioritizing their health and well-being,” they wrote.
ask.FEDweek.com: Hazardous Duty Pay to Federal Workers
ask.FEDweek.com: Environmental Differential Pay for Federal Workers (for Wage Grade)