Congressional Democrats trying to secure hazard pay for frontline federal workers

In today's Federal Newscast, House Democrats are eyeing hazard pay for frontline federal employees for the next emergency coronavirus package.

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  • House Democrats are eyeing hazard pay for frontline federal employees for the next emergency coronavirus package. Three Representatives are asking for their colleagues’ support on several proposals geared toward federal employees. They want to give part-time federal workers at the Transportation Security Administration, FEMA and other agencies a chance to enroll in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. Members say the current pandemic should be a qualifying event that allows part-time employees to enroll. The proposal would also include a House-passed bill to give TSA workers Title 5 collective bargaining rights.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services should use existing systems to track coronavirus statistics, make reporting by the states less burdensome and reduce the complexity of sharing information say 16 Senators who wrote to HHS CIO Jose Arreita, Adm. Brett. Giroir, the HHS Assistant Secretary for health, and CDC director Robert Redfield. The lawmakers say existing systems are already relied upon for their effectiveness and efficiency and could be important tools for responding to this virus to ensure accurate reporting and sharing of data as quickly as possible. (Sen. Chris Van Hollen)
  • Representative Katie Porter (D-Calif.) wants more oversight over how the White House is uses the Defense Production Act. In a letter to the Trump administration, Porter asks for a full list of DPA contracts including award data, quantity and per-unit cost. The stimulus package set aside one billion dollars for DPA contracts. Porter asked the White House to respond to her request by last Friday. The DPA funds contracts to provided needed goods and services during an emergency.
  • The General Services Administration publishes a guide for how to specify and acquire human centered design services. GSA’s customer experience lead Matt Ford says the guide, published Friday, includes how to match an agency’s design needs to the most promising vendors offering design services, pursuant to improving customer experience. And how to conduct source selection and structure a contract. The guide comes just as millions of Americans are feeling frustrated by the online experiences at federal web sites, connected to the economic relief bills.
  • Five fellows at the National Academy of Public Administration will start a highly-anticipated study of the Office of Personnel Management. NAPA has five fellows to take a year-long look at OPM. Former Homeland Security undersecretary Janet Hale will lead the panel. Former comptroller general David Walker and former defense personnel leader Peter Levine will sit on the committee. It also includes longtime defense OPM executive Ellen Tunstall and public policy professor Edward Kellough. The panel will eventually make recommendations to Congress about OPM and its future.
  • President Trump put a $10 billion loan for the Postal Service on hold if the agency doesn’t raise its package prices. Trump says the Treasury Department won’t disperse the money guaranteed under the CARES Act unless USPS agrees to raise prices for e-commerce companies like Amazon. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the Postal Service will have to accept some reforms as conditions for the loan. Because of a drop in mail volume during the pandemic, the agency projects it will run out of cash by the end of the fiscal year. (Federal News Network)
  • The Small Business Administration’s cybersecurity team isn’t just protecting the agency from cyber attacks, but it’s going after bad actors. Maria Roat, the SBA CIO, says in the last few weeks, the security team has taken down eight fraudulent websites and two fake Twitter accounts pretending to be the SBA administrator. The security team has been extraordinarily busy as SBA prepared for and is dealing with a surge in traffic to its site. Roat says when President Donald Trump tweeted the link to SBA dot gov, 93,000 people hit the website instantly. She says SBA scaled 825% instantaneously to handle the traffic surge.
  • Hiring at the Department of Veterans Affairs is up 37% in recent weeks. VA says it hired nearly 3,200 new staff members over two weeks in mid-April. 981 of them are registered nurses. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie says the hiring surge will continue to support the department’s coronavirus response efforts. He expects VA will hire another 4,500 staff in the next few weeks. Many of the new employees are medical professionals who were temporarily laid off from their jobs at private health care systems. VA has a national hiring campaign to attract more nurses, physicians and other medical professionals to help with coronavirus response.
  • About 10,000 IRS employees are coming back into the office today. The National Treasury Employees Union says it’s part of the agency’s initial wave of sending workers back to answer phones, handle mail, and complete other tax-filing season work that can’t be done from home. An all-staff email tells IRS employees to bring their own personal protective equipment to the office, but the agency expects more equipment will arrive this week. NTEU says the IRS asked employees to volunteer to come back to work, and will give them incentive pay. But if there aren’t enough volunteers, the agency will require certain employees to return to their offices. (Federal News Network)
  • President Trump plans to nominate Shon Manasco as the next undersecretary of the Air Force. Manasco has been served since 2017 as the assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs. He’s also been working as the Air Force undersecretary since late last year, when the Trump administration moved Matt Donovan from that job to the position of undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. Manasco is a former Army officer who’s spent most of the past 20 years in the banking and energy sectors, most recently at USAA. (White House)
  • The Space Force is coming closer to filling in its ranks and becoming a full-fledged military service. The Space Force says it will take on 1,800 new assignees over the next few months. Those employees will come from 23 organizations within the Air Force. The Space Force currently has 16,000 people assigned to it and only 88 actual members. The service will open up its application process to other military branches on May first. The Space Force is looking for space operators, engineers, cyber experts, intelligence employees and acquisition professionals. (Federal News Network)

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