House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., expressed “serious concerns” regarding wide-scale government telework in a Dec. 8 letter to leadership at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Office of Personnel Management, and the General Services Administration.

In the letter, Rep. McCarthy asserts that the Biden-Harris administration’s “maximum telework edict is not working for the American people, many of whom are struggling to secure in-person services from their Federal government.”

Wide-scale government telework is one of the workplace flexibilities that the Biden-Harris administration has explicitly established as a tool to be leveraged into the future, even after the coronavirus pandemic subsides, but Rep. McCarthy said he doubts the effectiveness of that practice.

“I am concerned about the impact that the continued closure of Federal offices throughout the country is having on Americans, particularly our most vulnerable citizens, who rely on in-person services,” he said. “The inability for the American people we all serve to receive timely and complete service from the Federal government is unacceptable.”

Rep. McCarthy pointed to a White House memo issued on Nov. 24 that explains 92 percent of Federal employees had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, increasing the possibility for a safer and more productive efficient workforce. However, “the efficiency of a Federal agency must be directly measured by its ability to serve our citizens, and recent data proves that many agencies are failing to do so,” McCarthy said.

“Instead of focusing on how the federal workforce can better function in the future, your agencies must focus on the issues at hand now,” he stated.

Rep. McCarthy is not the only Republican in the House pushing back on telework practices within the Federal government.

Earlier this month, during a Subcommittee on Government Operations hearing, Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., ranking member of the panel, claimed that the Federal workforce’s slow return to physical offices and the expansion of telework is harming service to the American people.

“The Biden administration has made clear it wants expanded telework and remote work to be a permanent part of the Federal landscape, using the practices of the private sector and the need to recruit as rationales. But there are differences between the private sector and Federal agencies, and we need to keep these in mind,” Rep. Hice said. “How can we be sure agency missions won’t slip in the drive to provide more and more telework and remote working arrangements,” he said.

Additionally, earlier this year, Hice also urged OPM to bring Federal employees back to their pre-pandemic workplace quickly. In the alternative, he challenged the Biden administration to explain how it will deal with the billions of dollars spent on underutilized facilities if Federal employees continue to utilize wide-scale government telework.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.