2020 Census count keeps on moving despite pandemic

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  • The 2020 census soldiers on despite delays in field operations caused by the coronavirus. Recent data from the Census Bureau shows it has more than 40,000 temporary decennial employees on its payroll. The bureau expects to hire as many as 500,000 temporary workers to complete the count. Field operations across the country remain on-hold through April 15. Meanwhile, the Bureau warned staffing adjustments at call centers may lead to increased wait times, and that wait times may vary by language options. Households can respond to the 2020 count in more than a dozen languages online, over the phone, or through a paper questionnaire. (U.S. Census Bureau)
  • Most federal employees aren’t eligible for the emergency paid sick leave Congress passed into law last month. That’s because employees hired under the Title 5 and Title 38 civil service systems are covered under Family and Medical Leave Act provisions. The Labor Department is overseeing the implementation of emergency coronavirus sick leave. But the Office of Personnel Management detailed who is and isn’t covered. Postal Service and Postal Regulatory Commission employees are eligible for two weeks of paid emergency sick leave. Certain legislative branch employees and temporary appointees are also eligible.
  • Lawmakers and interest groups called for more Postal Service funding in future pandemic spending bills. The National Association of Postal Supervisors seeks hazard pay for postal workers, as well as funds to provide facilities with protective gear and sanitizing products. Meanwhile, seven House Democrats urged congressional leadership to include $25 billion in funding for USPS in the next spending bill. The members also seek a requirement for future postal retirees to enroll in Medicare to reduce health care costs, and allowing post offices to work with state and local governments to offer more non-postal services.
  • The Trump administrations abruptly fired the man in charge of overseeing how the coronavirus stimulus package is spent. In a surprise move, President Donald Trump relieved Glenn Fine from his position of overseeing how the government will spend $2 trillion dollars in stimulus money. The administration has not announced a replacement to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Board. Fine reverted back to his position of Defense Department principal deputy inspector general. He has performed the duties of the DoD IG throughout the tenure of Trump’s presidency. (Federal News Network)
  • The long-time chief of staff for Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie will be the agency’s new acting deputy. President Trump tapped Pamela Powers to perform the duties of the deputy secretary. She’ll continue to serve as Wilkie’s chief of staff. Powers has over 30 years of experience in the Air Force and the Defense Department. She served as Wilkie’s chief of staff when he was DoD’s undersecretary for personnel and readiness. The VA deputy secretary position has been vacant since Wilkie fired Jim Byrne earlier this year. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • Troops affected by the military stop order movement may have to wait even longer to go to their next orders. Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein said it’s likely the order will stretch into August. That is when most of the military’s permanent changes of station occur. Currently, more than 120,000 troops are unable to move to their next orders or come home from overseas deployments. Some unintended consequences of the order have left military families paying rent in more than one place or without homes. (Federal News Network)
  • Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly issues an apology to sailors in his final message to the fleet. Modly submitted his resignation yesterday after he was widely condemned for inflammatory remarks aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. In his final words to the Navy, he said he lost situational awareness when he picked up the microphone aboard the aircraft carrier, and that he’s “deeply sorry” for the words he used. He said he brought “incoming fire” onto the Navy, and will regret it for the rest of his life, but realized that fire would continue unless he stepped aside.
  • The American Federation of Government Employees filed two complaints against the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Bureau of Prisons for their coronavirus responses. The complaints went to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. AFGE said VA and BOP aren’t following quarantine guidance for employees who are exposed to confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases. VA flatly denied those claims. The department said employees are isolating themselves per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. VA facilities have essential personal protective equipment and employees are using it. (Federal News Network)
  • The National Treasury Employees Union said new weather and safety schedules designed to protect Customs and Border Protection officers from coronavirus exposure are canceled. NTEU negotiated agreements with local CBP ports of entry. The new schedules allowed most CBP officers to report to their duty stations for 32 hours and spend eight hours a week on weather and safety leave. But NTEU said the agency is rescinding those schedules and it’s not sure why. (Federal News Network)
  • Agencies are being advised against using a popular free video teleconferencing system. The Department of Homeland Security and the General Services Administration told agencies yesterday to stay away from the free version of the Zoom video conferencing application. Instead, GSA and DHS said agencies should use the Zoom for Government application that is subscription based and has received a moderate cyber approval under the cloud security program known as FedRAMP. Agencies also received a set of cybersecurity best practices for how to ensure Zoom for Government is secure. Federal News Network contacted eight agency chief information officers, and most said they either don’t use Zoom or discontinued the use of the application. (Federal News Network)
  • Contractors can begin moving to one schedule contract under the General Services Administration’s signature acquisition vehicle. GSA released the final multiple award schedule or MAS, modification yesterday after making some minor tweaks to the draft version. GSA released the draft modification in late 2019 and received good feedback with 91%  of respondents agreeing that the proposed guidance is clear, and 93% saying it would benefit industry. GSA plans on completing the consolidation of 24 schedules to one by the end of fiscal 2020.
  • A tiny federal agency is taking the long view on a very big issue. It’s the Election Assistance Commission. Primary elections have become chaotic in the coronavirus crisis. But the EAC has put out for comment the next version of its Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. 2.0 is to help voting equipment manufacturers develop more secure and accessible systems. EAC Chairman Ben Hovland said the new guidelines aren’t about the 2020 national election but rather about what he calls the infrastructure of our democracy.

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