Federal Agencies Remain Open in DC, OMB Urges ‘Maximum Telework Flexibilities’
WASHINGTON – The Office of Management and Budget on Sunday asked federal agencies in and around the nation’s capitol to offer telework to all eligible employees, the latest in the government’s evolving steps to deal with the coronavirus.
In a memo sent to all agency and department heads Sunday night, acting OMB Director Russell Vought said, “We encourage agencies to use all existing authorities to offer telework to additional employees, to the extent their work could be telework enabled.”
“If employees are not eligible for telework, agency heads have the discretion to offer weather and safety leave, or the agency’s equivalent, including for employees who may not have been considered ‘at higher risk,’” he said.
Although Vought’s memo was only advisory in nature, and not a directive, it triggered an accompanying operating status change from the Office of Personnel Management.
The government’s operating status in Washington and the surrounding area went from “green” to “yellow,” indicating that federal offices were open but with “maximum telework flexibilities to all current telework eligible employees, pursuant to direction from agency heads.”
“Please contact your supervisor to confirm the telework schedule and to receive further direction from your agency head. If you are not telework eligible or do not have access to telework equipment, please contact your supervisor to discuss next steps,” the office says.
OMB’s Sunday night memo comes on the heels of separate guidance the agency issued Thursday, which instructed all departments to use telework for federal employees at “higher risk” for the coronavirus.
These include older workers and those with underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease or compromised immune systems.
Though it suggests a heightened level of concern, Vought’s memo nevertheless still leaves telework up to each agency’s discretion, “consistent with operational needs of the departments and agencies as determined by their heads.”
Also on Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to lawmakers in the chamber, reminding them that the health and safety of congressional staff is essential to fulfilling their mission to serve their constituents.
“In bipartisan consultation with the Attending Physician and the Sergeant at Arms, and out of an abundance of caution, I am writing to encourage you to take steps to promote social distancing within your Washington, D.C. office as we engage in the District Work Period,” Pelosi said. “This may entail more than half of your Washington staff teleworking from home.”
For guidance, the Speaker encouraged members to consult this link on telecommuting policies from the Committee on House Administration.
She also encouraged them to consult the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control for further information on preventing the spread of coronavirus.
“As this public health emergency develops, the House will continue to take strong, strategic and science-based action to keep the American people safe and ensure the continuity of Congressional operations,” Pelosi said.
In The News
WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration asked a federal judge to grant a 120-day delay for a deadline for e-cigarette manufacturers to submit applications to keep their products on the market. Citing “the exceptional circumstances presented by the global coronavirus outbreak,” the agency proposed moving... Read More
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Census Bureau, which had already suspended its field operations due to the coronavirus outbreak, has announced it will further postpone those operations at least through April 15. In a written statement, the agency said it made the decision based on continuing assessments... Read More
WASHINGTON - Attorneys general nationwide are joining in urging companies that sell online to stop price-gougers trying to take advantage of consumers during the coronavirus pandemic. They are selling hand sanitizers, aerosol spray disinfectants, surgical masks and other devices designed to prevent the spread of germs at sometimes... Read More
With more than two-thirds of the U.S. population ordered to stay home amid the coronavirus pandemic, it’s tougher for burglars to find an empty house to rob. But the cooped-up residents seem more likely to fight each other. That’s what crime statistics show in major U.S.... Read More
WASHINGTON — The coronavirus pandemic has put on indefinite hold a major portion of the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket, including a multibillion-dollar clash between software giants Google and Oracle Corp. and cases that could affect President Donald Trump’s reelection chances. What was supposed to have been... Read More
WASHINGTON — For tens of thousands of immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the coronavirus pandemic has created additional challenges to staying in the U.S. legally. Adrian Escarate, a 31-year-old “Dreamer” from Chile, needs to renew his DACA status before it expires... Read More