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Dead people are getting coronavirus stimulus payments, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers is asking the Treasury Department, IRS and Social Security Administration what they can do to stop it. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and John Kennedy (R-La.) join Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Congressman Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) in reaching out the agencies. They ask Treasury and the IRS how many pandemic payments have gone to the deceased, and what they’ll do to get those payments back. The lawmakers also ask what access these agencies have to SSA’s Death Master File before sending out payments.
The Postal Service has seen an uptick in some of its operations during the pandemic, but not enough to make a dent in its struggling finances. Package revenue grew 7% in the fiscal year’s second quarter. But the agency expects that package surge to plateau as the pandemic continues. Meanwhile, first-class mail revenue grew 1.4% because of mailings for the 2020 census. But USPS would have seen a decline in that revenue if not for census operations. The agency ended the quarter with a $4.5 billion loss, more than twice what it lost in the same period last year. (Federal News Network)
Coronoavirus has disproportionate impacts on certain segments of the population. That’s true of one group of concern to the federal government. The Veterans Health Administration releases figures showing that COVID-19 shows up in high levels for blacks it serves. Black veterans made up 12% of those tested, but 46% of the positive cases. VHA’s office of health equity says it’s keen to reduce the disparity. It plans to reach more black and Hispanic veterans for testing, and if needed, under care sooner.
The U. S. Patent and Trademark Office has moved to speed up patents for COVID-19 related inventions. PTO director Andrei Iancu says small and micro-sized entities who want priority processing of their applications, can get it, without the usual priority fees. The waiver applies to products or processes that are related to prevention or treatment of the disease, and that would require FDA approval.
A dozen House Democrats say the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act should expand to include anyone who had a new child this year, or will have a new child before October 1. New paid parental leave benefits are supposed to kick in on that date. But lawmakers say benefits should cover any federal employee who had a new child between December 20, 2019 and October 1 of this year. Democrats wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) looking for support. (Federal News Network)
Military spouses continue to feel the effects of the economic slump caused by coronavirus. The newest study from Blue Star Families finds 18% of service member spouses who were working before the pandemic have lost their jobs or are unable to work. The study also found 10% of military spouses are struggling to pay student loans due to the coronavirus outbreak. Blue Star Families is conducting weekly pain points surveys to find out the status of military families during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The nominee to be the next chief of staff of the Air Force is calling for a complete reconsideration of the service’s roles and missions. Gen. Charles Brown told Congress he thinks now is the time to reconsider approaches to air power and to reduce redundancies in the force. He added that as the role of the Air Force changes in its support to other services the Air Force will need to rethink even more of its doctrine going forward.
A new study by the Defense Business Board raises serious doubts about the effectiveness of DoD’s chief management officer. Based on 90 interviews with current and former DoD leaders, the board concluded the CMO was never set up for success, and can’t deliver on the business transformation mission it’s been given. The new report says the office has never had the authority it needs to overcome cultural barriers to reform. To make matters worse, the CMO position has been held by acting officials more often than Senate-confirmed ones. The board recommends doing away with the position and replacing it with one of three options, each of which would have a different title.
Health and Human Services still has not used the hiring authorities it got from Congress nearly four years ago to recruit needed scientists and researchers. The Government Accountability Office says HHS hasn’t implemented the authorities in the 21st Century Cures Act, which were supposed to help the department appoint up to 2,000 scientists. HHS says it’s drafting new guidance that will eventually help its subcomponent agencies begin hiring. The Food and Drug Administration says hiring could take up to six months to complete.
Long-time cybersecurity expert Donna Dodson is retiring after 33 years of federal service. Dodson spent her entire career with the National Institute of Standards and Technology. She’s been the chief cybersecurity advisor for the NIST IT Laboratory and director of the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence since 2012. In 2019, Dodson received a Presidential Rank Award for her commitment and leadership to improve federal cyber efforts.
A new cyber office is coming to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. As part of a broad reorganization, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is consolidating four different cyber offices into a single IC Cyber Executive. ODNI says this new position will provide a single focal point for the cyber mission and will strengthen the IC’s cyber posture. Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell announced the changes as one of several, which have been under discussion for more than a year. Two other changes include the establishment of the DNI for military affairs and the end of the Directorate of National Security Partnerships.
An inspector general says the Interior Department followed the rules when it changed its plans during the most recent government shutdown. The department’s IG acknowledged three Interior bureaus did recall some employees during the 2019 shutdown. But they changed their operating plans while following guidance from the Office of Management Budget. The Interior IG didn’t review the funding mechanisms used to change these plans. The Government Accountability Office previously said Interior violated the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act when brought employees back during the shutdown.