Federal bodies win $340bn in US corona stimulus package

By on 31/03/2020
President Trump signed the $2.2 trillion package into law on Friday. (Photo by Shealah Craighead, The White House via flickr).

President Trump has signed into law a $2.2 trillion (€2 trillion) stimulus package aimed at propping up the US economy amid the coronavirus crisis. The unprecedented cash injection includes $340bn (310bn) in emergency spending for government agencies, though various attempts by Democrats to add additional protections for federal employees were knocked back.

The package was agreed between Senate leaders and the Trump administration on Wednesday last week, then passed by the House and signed by the president on Friday. The lion’s share of the $340bn in additional funding for government agencies – far greater than the $46bn (€43bn) requested by the Office of Management and Budget – will be spent on hiring temporary workers to ensure public services continue to be delivered, paying existing employees’ overtime, and boosting IT capacity to enable staff to work remotely.

Benefiting agencies include the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Health and Human Services, Justice, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, and Housing and Urban Development, Government Executive reported.

Benefits rejected

House Democrats had pushed for perks for the federal workforce, including up to $2,000 reimbursement for childcare costs per dependent child for employees unable to work remotely during the pandemic; enabling any employee with a telework agreement in place to work from home until the end of the year; hazard pay for those potentially exposed to COVID-19 at work; and “weather and safety leave” for those whose offices are closed and can’t telework. They had also proposed that three Trump-signed executive orders, which seek to weaken unions’ clout and make it easier for agencies to fire federal employees, be revoked.

However, these provisions were viewed by Trump and Republican lawmakers as superfluous to the immediate crisis and excluded from the final package.

OPM launches central recruitment and flexibility for caregivers

Meanwhile, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) made two announcements to help public bodies address the coronavirus pandemic.

The “COVID-19 Surge Response Program” will provide a single recruitment hub, enabling public bodies to recruit from the federal workforce into COVID-19 response roles. The system “will allow agencies to quickly realign their workforce so they can better accomplish their mission for the American people,” explained acting OPM director Michael Rigas. “Dedicated civil servants will be able to go to one place and apply for a mission-critical position to support the public during this national emergency.”

Agencies will post details of positions on Open Opportunities, a website used by government to provide professional development opportunities for federal employees. The OPM also released a fact sheet outlining the options for telework-eligible employees who are looking after children or relatives as a result of school and care home closures. In it, the Office attempts to clear up any confusion around what is and is not admissible in the current circumstances. It covers areas such as flexible work schedules, absences and administrative leave, and ‘evacuation pay’.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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