Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) recently sent a letter to two key federal agencies in which he said it’s time for federal employees to stop telecommuting en masse and head back to work in their respective agency offices.
When the COVID pandemic started last year, the federal workforce began working remotely via telework in unprecedented numbers. There has been speculation that telework for federal workers is likely to continue at a greater capacity than it has in the past. FedSmith readers have said themselves that they think telework is sustainable long-term for the federal workforce.
However, with vaccines now becoming more widespread, Hawley said in his letter, “While I appreciate the extraordinary circumstances under which federal employees have operated over the past year, I believe the time has come to safely return to the office.”
He said in the letter that many of his constituents have experienced difficulties getting basic government services because of a lack of personnel working at local federal agencies in person. He wrote:
Over the past several weeks, my constituents have reported that certain federal agency offices are nonresponsive. While these complaints are widespread across agencies, particular concern has been directed at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) and local offices of the Social Security Administration (SSA). For example, constituents in Missouri are being met with a response from the NPRC that the agency is “servicing only urgent requests related to medical emergencies and burials” and that constituents should consider “delaying [their requests] until we are past this national emergency.” In addition, constituents have complained about long wait times for even phone appointments at SSA offices.
He added, “Putting services for Missourians on the back-burner is unacceptable, especially given the fact that the rest of Missouri has largely returned to work.”
He therefore called on the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management to issue new guidance that “provides a pathway for agencies to fully and promptly reopen, along with any appropriate protective measures for the workplace to help this occur safely.”
A copy of Hawley’s letter is included below.