Fedweek

Pay, Benefits Issues Left for Future Virus Relief Bill

President Trump has signed a $484 billion Coronavirus relief measure, the fourth to be enacted, but it leaves to yet another bill any potential changes to pay and benefits policies for federal employees.

While the fourth bill had been expected to address a number of policy matters, the depletion of a small business loan program created by one of the earlier bills took precedence. The bill repleniss that fund while adding money for certain hospital-related purposes.

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Congress took up the measure even though both the House and Senate remained out of session, under special rules allowing for passage of measures so long as no one objects. Congress managed to come together to approve the measure late in the week.

A similar process is expected for a now fifth bill. Democrats have proposed a number of policy changes for inclusion in that bill including a temporary pay boost for many frontline employees nationwide, including federal employees in such jobs; subsidies for dependent care costs of employees who are continuing to report to their regular duty stations even as schools and daycare centers are closed; mandated paid leave for employees in closed offices who cannot telework; flexibility to add or change insurance coverage, and more.

However, it may be more difficult to achieve unanimous agreement on those and other potentially controversial provisions.

Congress continues to explore ways to return to session while maintaining social distancing and other safety precautions — a complex task, especially for the House, which may require changes first in long-standing operating rules.

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