More US federal officials to return to the office as Biden expands in-person services

By on 07/03/2022 | Updated on 08/03/2022
Joe Biden
The White House said that the pandemic “no longer needs to dictate” how federal government works.

US president Joe Biden has set out his administration’s plan for federal employees to return to workplaces as part of an effort to widen the number of in-person public services available through agencies.

The plan to bring federal employees back to office-based work follows two years in which large numbers of US federal government employees have adopted teleworking to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Read more: Top teleworking tips: OPM shares performance management advice for hybrid-working US federal government

In a statement, the White House said that pandemic “no longer needs to dictate” how federal government works. “Federal agencies will lead by example, increasing the hours public-facing offices are open for in-person appointments and in-person interactions in the month of April,” it said.

President Biden hinted at details of his strategy to expand the range of federal services again offered face to face in his State of the Union speech last week. The strategy is outlined in the government’s recently published National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan.

Agencies due to increase their in-person services include the Social Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which will receive support from the administration to set up mass vaccination sites quickly as and when the state requests them. FEMA has drafted a playbook for establishing these sites, which will allow it to respond quickly to state requests alongside the US Health and Human Services (HHS) and defence departments.

Read more: ‘True transformation requires leadership from the top’: reaction to Biden’s federal services reform plan

Biden’s thank you letter to federal officials

Ahead of his speech, president Biden sent a thank you letter to federal employees in which he wrote:

“Your capabilities and dedication are what make the dederal government strong and ensure we deliver the basic needs for everyday Americans. Because of our progress combatting the pandemic, we can safely increase in-person work, while continuing to protect your health and safety.”

As reported by Government Executive, Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), said he welcomed the president’s praise for federal employees, though emphasised that many federal employees had remained at their normal duty stations throughout the pandemic, and that many others had already returned to offices.

“Just as President Biden said in his letter, federal employees have not allowed a pandemic to stop progress on the economic recovery, protecting national security and helping our federal agencies accomplish their important missions,” he said.

The White House has meanwhile requested US$22.5bn in funding from Congress to finance test, treatments and vaccines, as well as “investments in research and development of next-generation vaccines, and responding globally, including getting more shots in arms around the world”.

The funding request will also seek to provide agencies with the resources to vaccinate children under the age of five once they are approved. Agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, along with the Department of Defense, will continue to assist in developing and manufacturing vaccines to meet the country’s target output of one billion doses annually. The Veterans Affairs Department and Indian Health Service will also be enabled to vaccinate their constituents directly going forward.

Other elements of the plan include the federal government setting up one-stop-shops for COVID-19 tests and treatment in pharmacies, community health centres, and long-term care facilities.

Read more: US feds’ COVID-19 vaccination rate up amid discipline for non-compliance

The announcement by Biden comes after the Canadian federal government announced it was restarting plans to return public servants to offices.

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

One Comment

  1. James Brown says:

    I’m pretty sure many of them don’t even know the location of their https://ssa-office.com/ ssa office?! What extension are we talking about?

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