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 (AP) — As coronavirus cases surge again nationwide the Supreme Court late Wednesday barred New York from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues in areas designated as hard hit by the virus. The justices split 5-4 with new Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the... Read More
WASHINGTON — House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal's attitude toward legislating under a Democratic-led White House might aptly be described as "never let a crisis go to waste." The Massachusetts Democrat wants to take a page from his party's 2009 playbook, when the Obama administration took office amid the wreckage of... Read More
WASHINGTON — When the 117th Congress convenes in January, COVID-19 precautions will prevent the 435 House members from gathering in the chamber together, so opening day festivities of swearing in members and electing the speaker will look a little different. House leaders have begun discussing how to carry out... Read More
WASHINGTON — A top Senate Democrat said Tuesday that she's engaged in bipartisan discussions on COVID-19 aid and urged quick action even if that means "a short-term package for the next few months." "We need to act," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D- Mich., the fourth-ranking Democrat in that chamber... Read More
You can bring wine to Thanksgiving, bring sweet potatoes, bring congealed salad if you must. But you can't bring COVID-19, and that's causing hours-long lines at U.S. testing centers, triggering desperation among people yet to be cleared for the holiday meal. They're waiting outside even as health officials warn... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — All those warnings from public health officials begging Americans to limit gatherings this holiday season amid a surge in coronavirus cases aren't stopping the White House from planning a host of festivities and holiday parties in the midst of a pandemic. Monday's delivery... Read More