Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is the latest member of Congress to publicly ask why federal employees are still working from home and the federal government is still operating at the “maximum telework” status with such widespread use of the COVID vaccines.
McCarthy raised the question in a letter recently sent to the directors of the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget.
In his letter, he asks why, if federal employees have such high compliance rates with the Biden administration’s federal employee vaccine mandate, would the government not return many more federal employees to work in their agency offices?
“Given the high vaccination level of the federal workforce, why does the Current Operating Status of the federal government – per OPM guidance – remain at ‘maximum telework,’ as it has been since March 2020?,” wrote McCarthy in his letter.
He asked that he get a response to this and other questions by December 15.
The other questions he asked in his letter are:
- How many federal employees are currently teleworking?
- Does the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force plan to make public the “reentry” plans that it required all federal agencies to submit by July 19, 2021?
- Does the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force plan to enforce agency “reentry” plans?
- How have federal agencies been monitoring the efficacy and productivity of federal employees who are teleworking?
As to why he is concerned about this, McCarthy said in the letter that the “‘maximum telework’ edict is not working for the American people, many of whom are struggling to secure in-person services from their federal government.”
He cited as an example that there are currently 256,369 backlogged veterans benefits claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs that are still waiting to be reviewed by the agency. This is “due largely to the suspension of in-person benefits examinations” according to McCarthy’s letter.
Ongoing Push to Get Federal Employees Back to In-Office Work
McCarthy is not the first lawmaker to call for getting federal employees back to in-office work.
Over the summer, a group of 14 Congressmen sent a letter calling for an immediate reopening of agency offices, especially those that offer in-person services that cannot be adapted to virtual visits.
As far back as April, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) said in a letter it was time for federal employees to resume in-person work.
Last month, legislation was introduced in the Senate that would require federal employees complying with the vaccine mandate to return to their duty stations and the hours they were working prior to the pandemic.
The argument is generally for better support of their constituents and problems that the lawmakers say are arising from the lack of in-person services.
“It’s long past time for federal workers to be back in the office helping the people of Wyoming, and constituents across the United States. There is a huge casework backlog, and that is negatively impacting our veterans, our seniors, our business owners and American citizens,” said Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), the sponsor of the Senate bill. “It’s time to put aside politics, follow the science and get back to work. Americans across the country have been returning to in-person work, and the federal bureaucrats who work for them should do the same.”
Vaccination Compliance Rates of Federal Employees
According to the White House, the number of federal employees in compliance with the vaccine mandate is even higher than the figures McCarthy cited in his letter.
As of December 8, 92.5% of federal employees have had at least one COVID vaccine dose, and the White House says that over 97% of federal employees are now considered in compliance, meaning they have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination or have a pending or approved exception or extension request.