Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) led a bipartisan letter that was signed by 17 of their colleagues—including Senator Angus King (I-ME)—in urging the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to take immediate steps to support federal employees and contractors during the COVID-19 crisis. As reported in the Washington Post, the bipartisan letter emphasizes several actions that the Administration should take now to support these crucial public servants.
The Senators begin by urging OPM use their existing authority to implement hazard pay for federal employees, which provides for pay increases of up to 25 percent. They write, “Many federal workers and contractor employees are putting themselves at increased risk of COVID-19 to work on the frontlines of the public health response and continue essential public-facing services. We appreciate the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) guidance on recruitment, retention, and relocation bonuses in response to COVID-19, and we urge you to build on this by using existing hazard pay authority to provide a 25 percent increase in basic pay for employees in essential, frontline, or public-facing positions whose jobs cannot be accomplished while maintaining the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) social distancing recommendations. The statute provides for hazardous pay differentials for duties involving unusual hazards that are not typical for the job, which certainly describes the current situation for many workers.”
They go on to call for OPM and OMB to clarify and fully support maximum telework and to implement safety leave when necessary. They state, “Agencies should receive clear criteria to make greater use of safety leave, including how to weigh costs and benefits in order to reach a determination… Safety leave also has positive effects to mitigate community spread within federal facilities and surrounding communities. This is especially true in large federal facilities with many employees and in communities that rely on mass transit.”
The Senators urge that employees be provided the equipment and supplies they need to stay safe on the job, noting, “The need for adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) remains a significant concern for frontline and essential workers across the country, including federal employees and contractors, who have not had access to the PPE as well as cleaning and disinfecting supplies they need to do their job safely. Congress has provided significant resources to address these needs for workers across the country, as well as appropriations for several agencies to procure the safety equipment and supplies needed for their workforces. All federal employees and contractors – like workers across the country – should have everything they need to stay safe on the job.”
In addition to these issues, the Senators also address the continuity of pay for federal contract employees and ask the Administration to ensure that they are working collaboratively with employees and unions on these matters.
In addition to Senators Collins, Van Hollen, and King, the letter is also signed by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Edward Markey (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Gary Peters (D-MI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
Click HERE to read the full letter.