Senators Continue Push for More Telework

More lawmakers are continuing to make their case for keeping federal employees on telework to protect them from the COVID-19 coronavirus.

A group of Senators are making a plea to keep federal employees who can do so teleworking for as long as possible.

The lawmakers said in a recent letter to Senate leaders that federal employees are better protected from the coronavirus by not going back to work in the office and that stopping telework threatens to “erase the progress made against the coronavirus and increase community spread.”

Some of the same Senators sent a letter last month to the Acting Directors of Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management in which they continued to make their case for extending telework, saying in the letter that federal employees would be put in danger if they were to resume working in an office right now.

A majority of FedSmith readers, many of whom are currently teleworking to avoid the COVID-19 coronavirus, said in a recent survey that they do not feel safe going back to work in the office and that they do not have faith in their agencies’ abilities to enact the safety protocols that they feel would be necessary to keep them safe. For details, see FedSmith Readers Say They Are Afraid to Return to Work in Their Offices.

One Senator had a slightly different take on the recent telework phenomenon taking place amidst the coronavirus pandemic. She said that the fact that so many federal employees have been successfully performing their jobs remotely via telework is evidence that more agencies should be moved out of the Washington, DC area.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our federal workers have successfully done their jobs remotely, showing us that they don’t necessarily need to be in Washington to do their jobs. I think this bolsters my argument that we can and should move more jobs out of Washington…” said Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA). She was making the statement in support of her legislation that would facilitate moving agencies out of the DC area.

A copy of the letter is included below.

July 31, 2020

Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:

As the Senate considers the next coronavirus relief package, we urge you to include requirements to ensure maximum telework for federal employees and contractors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal employees and contractors have been teleworking successfully throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency, many of whom have been keeping vital services running and implementing relief measures to support the economy and stop the spread of COVID-19.

As new waves of COVID-19 cases continue to hit areas across the country, it is especially important for federal agencies to have a clear mandate that sets a positive example for employers to keep their workforces and communities safe. Plans to bring federal employees back into offices prematurely would threaten to erase the progress made against the coronavirus and increase community spread.

All federal employees and contractors who can perform their duties remotely should be doing so. Agencies should enable telework for as many federal workers and contractor personnel as possible, and should continue to maximize telework throughout the pandemic. Telework protects not only federal employees from the spread of COVID-19, but also their families and the communities across the country in which they work. 

We appreciate your past support for federal employees and the funding provided in the CARES Act to help agencies expand telework. We ask that you continue this support by requiring maximum telework in the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the next coronavirus relief package.

Sincerely,

Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)
Tim Kaine (D-Va.)
Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)
Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
Mark Warner (D-Va.)
Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)
Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)
Ben Cardin (D-Md.)
Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)
Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)
Bob Casey (D-Pa.)
Gary Peters (D-Mich.)
Angus King (I-Maine)
Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)
Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)
Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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