Several separate packages of improvements in federal employee pay and benefits have been proposed for inclusion in a planned Coronavirus relief bill, which if enacted into law would go well beyond the improvements included in the three such measures already enacted.
One package, from the Democratic leaders of the House Oversight and Reform Committee would:
– provide up to $2,000 per child or dependent per month in daycare reimbursements for employees required to report to their regular duty stations;
– require agencies to provide weather and safety leave to employees not eligible to telework but whose duty stations are closed;
– clarify that a home qualifies as an “approved location” for telework regardless of whether a child or other dependent is present;
– prohibit agency-wide restrictions on the frequency with which employees telework; and
– allow employees to enroll in FEHB or adjust current coverage, and add a year to the current age maximums for coverage of dependents under FEHB (26) and FEDVIP (22).
A separate proposal from Senate Democratic leaders would create a premium pay allowance of $13 an hour, retroactive to January 27 and through the end of this year up to $25,000, for “essential frontline employees” nationwide, to include federal employees in such roles (and who are not teleworking). That would include “Title 5 employees and employees of all other federal personnel systems,” according to a summary.
A third package, sponsored by several individual Democratic House and Senate members, similarly would include federal employees in a nationwide “essential worker bill of rights” which would include premium pay, dependent care subsidies, additional leave and other benefits still to be detailed.
The proposals were made in advance of what had been an expected return to work of Congress next week, when a new relief bill—what would be the fourth—was to have been the first order of business. However, the return has since been put off until no earlier than May 4.
Congress could work to craft a bill in that time but enacting it with legislators out of session would require what Congress calls “unanimous consent”—no objection from any member. Reaching such an agreement could be difficult, however.
For example, proposals also have been raised to boost financial relief—additional borrowing authority—for the Postal Service that previously was enacted.
That follows a new report from USPS saying the agency still is at risk of running out of operating money in this fiscal year and asking for an immediate $25 billion cash infusion, a fund of the same amount for modernization projects, and authority to borrow that same amount more from the Treasury. The White House, though, has said it would not agree to any direct financial help for the USPS.