The EPA plans to offer early retirement and buyout incentives to up to 1,228 employees agency-wide, nearly a tenth of its workforce, with a starting date still not determined but with a July 26 deadline for employees to decide and a requirement that those who accept separate by September 2.
The EPA earlier had announced intentions to make the offers before the end of this fiscal year in the face of the administration’s proposed budget cut–even though that proposal must go through the congressional budget process and would not be effective until the fiscal year that starts in October.
The EPA’s situation is being watched closely across government since many other agencies also would be under severe budget pressure under the administration’s budget plan, and all agencies are under orders to restructure themselves for greater efficiency and to reduce their workforces in both the short run and the long run.
The agency said in an email to employees that “in developing our VERA/VSIP business case, we are considering multiple factors including increasing supervisor to staff ratio; consolidating support functions; restructuring or reducing highly graded supervisory and non-supervisory positions; focusing on core business functions, programmatic and STEM priorities, and consolidating and streamlining programs and functions. Details on the selection criteria for employees in the pool are still being worked out.”
The EPA meanwhile sent a proposed memo of understanding to its unions on certain specifics, based on policies it used in prior buyout/early out offers in 2014 and 2015. It notes that while OPM approval is still pending, EPA’s plan includes that: employees will be notified via email or in writing about which job series and positions are eligible for the VERA/VSIP offering; the HR office will conduct webinars for employees twice a day two days a week during the decision period; employees may use government equipment to prepare and submit applications, which must be done electronically; employees may withdraw their application up to a day before the date they agreed to leave; the agency will promptly provide employees with information about their retirement benefits at their request; applicants will be notified on a running basis whether they were selected; selections will be made without discrimination or any other prohibited basis; and if more employees accept than the number of separations the EPA is seeking, applications will be approved on the basis of seniority.