A group of Senators from states that are home to many federal employees are questioning the Agriculture Department’s recent decision to reduce the buyout offer it was making to some agency employees who were leaving the agency rather than relocating to Kansas City.
In an announcement to agency employees, the USDA said that it was reducing the amount of the buyout offer to employees from the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) who were leaving rather than moving from Washington, DC to Kansas City. The original amount was going to be $25,000 but it was reduced to $10,000. USDA said the reduction was done because so many employees were taking the buyout that it couldn’t afford to make the maximum payment.
Senators Question Timing of the Buyout Reduction
The Senators sent a letter to USDA secretary Sonny Perdue questioning the timing of the reduced buyout offer.
The Senators wrote, “Applicants were only given six days to accept or decline this payment…”
The Senators also said that the agency failed to explain why agency employees were not notified earlier that the buyout offers would be less than $25,000 “considering the agency already knew that more than half of ERS and NIFA employees had declined to relocate by the time VSIP applications were due.”
The Senators went on to ask the USDA these questions about the situation:
- How much does USDA have budgeted for VSIP payments, and from what authority?
- Why was USDA not prepared to offer the maximum buyout payment or near the maximum to employees when that appears to be standard procedure among federal agencies?
- Why were employees not notified ahead of the VSIP application window that the maximum buyout would be significantly less than the federal maximum?
The letter was sent by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
A copy of the letter is included below.