Several senators from both parties are calling on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to use existing authorities to provide hazard pay to Federal government employees working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. That proposed hazard pay would total a 25% increase in those workers’ current salaries.

A May 5 letter from 19 senators – led by Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Susan Collins, R-Maine – calls on OMB Acting Director Russell Vought and OPM Acting Director Michael Rigas to use their authority to institute hazard pay for some Federal employees. They also urged OPM and OMB to make changes to telework, safety leave, personal protective equipment, pay continuity, and union collaboration policies to improve work conditions for Federal employees and contractors.

The senators argued that many Federal workers are on the front lines of the COVID-19 public health crisis, and deserve the full support of members of the Federal government for their efforts. The senators urged hazard pay for employees in “essential, frontline, or public-facing positions whose jobs cannot be accomplished while maintaining the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) social distancing recommendations.”

While OPM and OMB have previously issued orders to Federal agencies to maximize telework, the senators called for further clarification of telework policies. “All federal employees and contractors who can perform their duties remotely should be doing so,” the letter states. To adhere with these standards, the senators asked OPM and OMB to make the training and technology to support telework “fully available” to employees that need it.

OPM and OMB should also provide agencies with clearer guidance on how to make greater use of safety leave, make sure that all Federal employees have the appropriate personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, and institute clearer guidelines on how agencies should issue pay continuity standards for contracted employees, the senators said.  They also requested that OPM and OMB “engage in consultation and collaboration” with workers and unions to keep up communication on the consequences of COVID-19 workforce policies.

Lastly, the senators asked the agencies to follow through with the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey this year to understand the Federal workforce’s perspective and ideas that will better enable mission fulfillment.

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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.