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A new estimate from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said there were about $2.3 billion in government contracts that would have been issued to small firms over the past month, but weren’t because of the government shutdown. The analysis is based on 2018 data from agencies affected by the shutdown. Last year, those agencies signed $29 billion in contracts to 41,000 small businesses. (U.S. Chamber of Commerce)
Financially hard-pressed IRS employees can request to remain at home during the shutdown, according to their union. National Treasury Employee Union president Tony Reardon said agency employees should only take hardship leave if they can’t afford to come into work. Jenny Brown, a local chapter president for NTEU in Ogden, Utah, said about a quarter of the area’s 5,000 IRS workers have filed for hardship leave. (Federal News Network)
Furloughed employees will not be charged quite yet for missed federal dental and vision insurance premium payments. Coverage under the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program will continue, but the insurance administrator won’t begin to bill FEDVIP participants for missed payments until three consecutive pay periods have passed. (Federal News Network)
House lawmakers in the National Capitol region want excepted employees to be able to file for unemployment benefits. Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) introduced new legislation to allow those working without pay the ability to file for unemployment. Furloughed federal employees are eligible. But excepted employees in most states are out of luck. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) are also co-sponsors. (Congress.gov)
Former leaders at the Department of Homeland Security said there’s a breaking point for employees at DHS who are working without pay during the government shutdown. Former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson even said his son — who is in the Coast Guard — told him new recruits are leaving to go to another military service. DHS has struggled and tried to cultivate relationships with contractors in recent years. Those relationships are at risk, as DHS issues stop work orders to its partners. (House Homeland Security Committee)
Large federal contractors are experiencing a mixed bag when it comes to effects from the partial shutdown. SAIC, a majority defense contractor, said it has more than $100 million in unpaid bills due to the shutdown. Its CEO Tony Moraco said the shutdown is keeping the company from investing in technologies that could benefit DoD. SAIC does more than 30 percent of its business with civilian companies. (Federal News Network)
The Patent and Trademark Office estimated it can stay open a few more weeks under the partial shutdown. It can keep its patent operations going until at least the second week of February, and trademark operations can continue until at least mid-April. USPTO has funded its offices through fees collected prior to the shutdown. (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)
Several lawmakers are calling on the Office of Personnel Management to assure federal employees and contractors won’t be penalized for missed payments due to the government shutdown. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), and a group of Virginia House democrats urge OPM to issue new guidance prohibiting agencies from punishing security clearance holders and applicants for poor shutdown-induced credit. Outstanding bills could impact their credit ratings, and are typically a red flag for federal investigators performing security clearance checks. (Rep. Don Beyer)
The senators from Maryland and Virginia want to find out how the partial shutdown is affecting the DC Metrorail system and it’s not good news. WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld wrote back to the lawmakers, telling them the transit system is losing $400,000 dollars a day under the partial shutdown. Despite this, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s board is scheduled to vote today on allowing federal workers to ride Metro for free until the government shutdown ends. (Sen. Mark Warner)
As federal plaintiffs’ potential liquidated damages pile up, so does the potential for a speedy recovery. Employees in the class action back-pay lawsuit from the 2013 shutdown still await money from the 2017 decision. But the lawyer in that case and for a class action suit over the current shutdown said things will likely move faster this time, presuming the plaintiffs win. D.C. attorney Heidi Burakiewicz said the legal issues are already settled. And the government is getting faster at determining damages based on back pay (Federal News Network).
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) took over the gavel of the government operations subcommittee of the Oversight and Reform Committee. He’s been ranking member for the last three years. Now as chairman, Connolly will expand the subcommittee’s jurisdiction to include oversight of the federal civil service, government management, accounting measures, IT security and acquisition policy. (Rep. Gerry Connolly)
Any concern that the Defense Information Systems Agency is going away can be put to rest. After some House lawmakers tried to eliminate DISA last year, the technology and acquisition provider has solidified its place in the Defense Department. DISA officials said they are in the middle of many of the DoD’s reform and efficiency initiatives, including the consolidation and modernization of the Fourth Estate’s networks and technology. DISA said its finalizing plans for the effort to bring the Office of the Secretary and all the other DoD agencies under one technology umbrella. The agency also is central to many of DoD’s enterprise services such as MilCloud 2.0, security clearance modernization and application rationalization efforts.