OPM Extends COVID-19 Excepted Service Hiring Authority

OPM has extended the COVID excepted service hiring authority after President Biden extended the pandemic national emergency.

The Biden Administration says the COVID-19 pandemic is still not over three years later, although the White House said that it is starting to wind down. This has led to an extension of the COVID-19 excepted service hiring authority that allows federal agencies to use for filling positions in response to the pandemic.

President Biden issued a notice on February 10, 2023 formally extending the national emergency concerning COVID-19. In that statement, he said that his administration is finally “planning for an end to the national emergency, but an orderly transition is critical to the health and safety of the Nation.”

The original emergency declaration was issued on March 13, 2020 when President Trump was still in office. The latest emergency declaration says that Biden is planning to end the national emergency on May 11, 2023, although no specifics were given in the statement as to why that date was chosen.

A copy of the president’s declaration is included at the end of the article.

In accordance with Biden’s extension of the national emergency, the Office of Personnel Management has issued a memo extending the COVID-19 Schedule A hiring authority for federal agencies. It extends the use of the excepted service hiring authority for hiring additional staff into positions needed in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic until May 11, 2023, the same date as noted in Biden’s memo.

“OPM understands that during this time, agencies need more tools to conduct strategic, targeted hiring for specific, short-term roles to meet mission and/or hiring needs,” states OPM Director Kiran Ahuja in the memo.

The memo also adds:

Agencies may continue to use this authority to fill positions on a temporary basis for up to 1 year as needed in response to, or as a result of, COVID-19. These appointments may be extended up to 1 additional year. No new appointments may be made under this authority after May 11, 2023, when this public health emergency and National emergency are expected to end. Appointments are limited to individuals needed in direct response to the effects of COVID-19.

COVID-19 Excepted Service Hiring Authority

According to OPM, the COVID-19 Governmentwide Hiring Authority authorizes “the use of excepted-service appointments under 5 CFR 213.3102(i)(3) to address the need for hiring additional staff into positions to respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

It can be used to fill any positions that are needed in response to COVID-19.

Competitive vs. Excepted Service Under the COVID-19 Hiring Authority

According to OPM, the Schedule A hiring authority authorized under the COVID-19 national emergency is different than competitive hiring in the following respects:

  • No Public notice (posting on USAJOBS.gov) is required; however, agencies can advertise if they choose and should conduct other appropriate recruiting activities.
  • Agencies must follow procedures in 5 CFR part 302, including veterans’ preference and pass overs of certain veterans, when using this authority.
  • Make appointments on a temporary basis for up to one year.
  • Extend appointments for 1 additional year (if need be).

Federal employees hired under the authority may be eligible for the following benefits:

  • Federal Employees Health Benefits
  • Federal Long-Term Care Insurance
  • Flexible Spending Accounts

The following limitations apply to the continued use of Schedule A authority:

  • Agencies should use this authority in the same manner that they would use any other excepted service authority.
  • Agencies must have excepted service policies in place prior to using this or any expected service authority, which govern the process for receiving/processing applications; making qualification determinations; making selections; and the application of veterans’ preference (including pass overs).
  • These hires are subject to the same suitability/background investigation process as other applicants.
  • Appointments made prior to March 1, 2023, may be extended beyond that date.
  • No new appointments may be made after March 1, 2023, or upon termination of the National Emergency Concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, whichever comes first.
  • When documenting the SF-50 “Notification of Personnel Action” for such appointments use “W9R/Sch. A, 5 CFR 213.3102(i)(3)” as the first authority and “W9C” as the final authority.

Federal employees interested in this excepted service hiring authority should contact their agency benefits officers for determining their eligibility.

Notice on the Continuation of the National Emergency Concerning the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-⁠19) Pandemic

On March 13, 2020, by Proclamation 9994, the President declared a national emergency concerning the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Today, we are in a different phase of the response to that pandemic than we were in March of 2020, and my Administration is planning for an end to the national emergency, but an orderly transition is critical to the health and safety of the Nation. For this reason, the national emergency declared on March 13, 2020, and beginning March 1, 2020, must continue in effect beyond March 1, 2023. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing the national emergency declared in Proclamation 9994 concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. I anticipate terminating the national emergency concerning the COVID-19 pandemic on May 11, 2023.

This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.

                               JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

February 10, 2023

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.