As expected, President Biden has announced new policies for all federal employees as part of a strategy to “help protect workers and their communities” from COVID-19.
Federal employees will now be asked to attest to their COVID vaccination status. For those federal employees who attest to not being fully vaccinated, they will be “required to wear a mask on the job no matter their geographic location, physically distance from all other employees and visitors, comply with a weekly or twice weekly screening testing requirement, and be subject to restrictions on official travel.”
Biden also wants to see the same standards applied to all federal contractors.
The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has provided some details on how all of this will work.
The president is also directing the Department of Defense to look at how to add the COVID vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for members of the military.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) issued a statement in response to today’s announcement:
We expect that the particulars of any changes to working conditions, including those related to COVID-19 vaccines and associated protocols, be properly negotiated with our bargaining units prior to implementation.
Based on today’s announcement, it is our understanding that under President Biden’s proposal the vast majority of federal employees would not have to be vaccinated as a condition of employment, but that those who choose not to receive the vaccine may face certain restrictions.
While we await specific proposals and anticipate the negotiation process, we encourage all of our members who are able to take advantage of the opportunity to get vaccinated and help our nation put an end to this deadly pandemic.
Biden said in his remarks that the Justice Department has concluded that the vaccine requirements are legal. That does not mean they will not face legal resistance, however. FedSmith author and attorney specializing in representing federal employees Mathew Tully said that he expects the new COVID requirements for federal employees to be challenged in the courts in some way in the near term.
Biden also called today for state and local governments to provide $100 payments to Americans as an added incentive to get the vaccine.
The full statement issued by the White House today is included below.
Six months into the Biden Administration’s vaccination effort, 164 million Americans are fully vaccinated, including 80 percent of seniors and more than 60 percent of adults. This is significant progress, and as a result, the country and economy are in a stronger position than January 2021.
We are now faced with a much more transmissible strain of this virus—the Delta variant. The good news is that we are prepared for this. We know how to stop it: get more people vaccinated.
Today, the President will announce additional efforts to do just that—imposing requirements to protect our federal workforce and those they serve, offering additional incentives for vaccination, and making it even easier for people, especially young people, to get themselves and their loved ones vaccinated.
Today’s actions include:
Strengthening Safety Protocols for Federal Employees and Federal Contractors. Today, the President will announce that to help protect workers and their communities, every federal government employee and onsite contractor will be asked to attest to their vaccination status. Anyone who does not attest to being fully vaccinated will be required to wear a mask on the job no matter their geographic location, physically distance from all other employees and visitors, comply with a weekly or twice weekly screening testing requirement, and be subject to restrictions on official travel.
The federal government employs more than 4 million Americans, including over 2 million in the federal civilian workforce, throughout our country and across the world.
These rules should not only apply to federal workers and onsite contractors. President Biden is directing his team to take steps to apply similar standards to all federal contractors. The Administration will encourage employers across the private sector to follow this strong model.
Protecting Those Who Serve Our Country. Today, the President will announce that he is directing the Department of Defense to look into how and when they will add COVID-19 vaccination to the list of required vaccinations for members of the military. This is particularly important because our troops serve in places throughout the world—many where vaccination rates are low and disease is prevalent.
Earlier this week, like many health care employers across the country, the Department of Veterans Affairs took the common-sense and important step of requiring their health care providers and personnel to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Too many veterans have already lost their lives to this virus, and veterans and their families deserve nothing less than us doing everything we can to protect their health. The public health, health care, and medical community are unified in support of these actions—on Monday, over 50 leading health care societies and organizations called for all health care and long-term care employers to require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Expanding Paid Leave to Get Families and Kids Vaccinated. The President will announce that small- and medium-sized businesses will now be reimbursed for offering their employees paid leave to get their family members, including their kids, vaccinated. In April, the President announced that, thanks to the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the federal government is fully reimbursing any small- or medium-sized business that provides workers with paid time off to get vaccinated. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, by the end of June, half of all workers in America had access to paid time-off for vaccinations, and 75% of workers who were offered paid time-off for vaccinations from their employer reported being vaccinated. The President will also call on employers who have not offered paid time off to their employees for vaccination to do so.
Calling on State and Local Governments to Offer $100 to Get Vaccinated. Today, the President will call on states, territories, and local governments to do more to incentivize vaccination, including offering $100 to those who get vaccinated. Throughout America’s vaccination efforts, we have seen that financial incentives serve as a motivating factor for some people to get vaccinated. When the grocery store Kroger started offering $100 to their associates to get vaccinated, it saw vaccination rates increase from 50% to 75%. States like New Mexico, Ohio, and Colorado have piloted $100 incentive programs that have also helped move the dial on vaccinations. According to research from the University of California, Los Angeles, roughly one-third of unvaccinated individuals said a cash payment would make them more likely to get a shot. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) provided states, territories, and localities resources that can be used to offer incentives to increase vaccination rates, and today, the President will call on every state, territory, and local government to use this ARP funding to provide $100 to anyone who gets vaccinated.
Increasing Vaccinations Among Adolescents as Kids Go Back to School. Today, the President will, in an effort to get more kids 12 and older vaccinated, call on school districts nationwide to host at least one pop-up vaccination clinic over the coming weeks. And, the Administration is directing pharmacies in the federal pharmacy program to prioritize this and to work with school districts across the country to host vaccination clinics at schools and colleges. In March, the Biden Administration prioritized K-12 educators, school staff, and child care workers for vaccinations. This directive worked: Today, almost 90% of educators and school staff are vaccinated. The President believes that every student—no matter their zip code—should have an easy and accessible way to get vaccinated. Vaccination is our leading public health strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic—and it is our best way to prevent COVID outbreaks before they happen, so that schools and colleges can return to safe, in-person instruction all year long.