Law firm says feds may be entitled to compensation for COVID exposure

In today's Federal Newscast, a Washington D.C. attorney says hundreds of thousands of federal employees are potential plaintiffs in this class action suit.

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  • A Washington D.C. attorney says hundreds of thousands of federal employees are potential plaintiffs in this class action suit. Heidi Burakiewicz, known for her back pay suits from government shutdowns, has added six new plaintiffs to a class action she filed in March for a total of 11. This case seeks the statutory 25% pay hike for federal workers exposed to what the law calls a virulent biologic. Soon her firm, Kalajarvi, Chuzi, Newman and Fitch, will let any feds who feel they are exposed to COVID-19 sign up.
  • Senate Republicans want to help U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services avoid employee furloughs at the end of the next month. A new coronavirus relief proposal from the Senate majority leader includes a $1.2 billion loan authority for USCIS. The loan authority would allow USCIS to address revenue shortfalls into the next fiscal year. It also requires the agency to eventually pay back the emergency funding to the U.S. Treasury. It’s unclear whether the proposal from Senate Republicans in its current form will get a vote on the Senate floor.
  • A Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee says the time may be right for an update to federal telework policies. Subcommittee Chairman Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) launched a series of fact-finding hearings this week on best telework practices. He says he wants to hear from private sector companies and agencies about the lessons they’ve learned about telework during the pandemic. The Telework Enhancement Act set broad remote work policies for federal agencies, but the law is now 10 years old. (Federal News Network)
  • A top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee introduced a bill giving Foreign Service officers with disabilities a better shot at promotions. Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) introduced the Promotion Accessibility Act to allow Foreign Service officers up for promotion to submit gap memos that explain interruptions in their overseas assignments. Castro says Foreign Service officials with disabilities often need to return to the U.S. for specialized care and get passed up for promotions.
  • The Joint Staff is thinking ahead on how it will support civil authorities during the coronavirus pandemic as hurricane season starts to take effect. The nominee to lead U.S. Northern Command, Lt. Gen. Glen VanHerck, told Congress there is a plan for dealing with storms and coronavirus at the same time. The plan details how command and control would be conducted in that environment. So far, only Hurricane Hanna has caused significant problems for states this storm season.
  • The coronavirus stimulus bill has budget items helping the military buy more weapons. The Senate Republicans’ COVID-19 relief bill holds billions of dollars for upgrading or procuring military weapons. The bill includes $1 billion for Boeing P-8 Poseidon jets. Another item provides $650 million to replace wings on the Boeing A-10 jet. The bill also appropriates $686 million for F-35s made by Lockheed Martin, and $720 million for Lockheed’s C-130 jets.
  • The Defense Department Inspector General’s Office is looking into military law enforcement organizations’ response to active shooter and workplace violence incidents. The inquiry will look into policy, guidance training, response place and previous active shooter investigations. Four shooting incidents took place on military bases in 2019. That included one shooting in Pensacola, Florida, which left four people dead — and another at the Marine Corps Barracks in Washington, D.C., which left one person dead.
  • The Small Business Administration’s inspector general is sounding the alarm on hundreds of millions of dollars in suspected coronavirus relief fraud. The IG claims financial institutions have reported more than $180 million in suspected fraudulent transactions, and more than $250 million in Economic Injury Disaster Loans went to potentially ineligible recipients. The IG also found SBA disbursed $35 million in duplicate loans. The watchdog recommends SBA make it easier for lenders to report suspected fraud to the Office of Disaster Assistance.
  • Senate Republicans are backing away from the Trump administration’s request for $1.8 billion to build a new FBI headquarters in Washington D.C. The White House requested that measure in a $1 trillion coronavirus spending bill called the HEALS Act. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says he wants to see non-COVID provisions stripped from the final bill. Other Senate Republicans have also expressed doubt with the plan. The administration in 2018 scrapped plans to move the FBI to a suburban headquarters in Maryland or Virginia. Instead, it’s proposed demolishing the J. Edgar Hoover building and building a new facility in its place. (Federal News Network)
  • The Technology Modernization Fund board made its 10th loan since its inception two years ago. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection directorate is taking a loan to accelerate a program that has struggled over the last several years. The TMF Board announced it would lend CBP $15 million dollars to modernize its Automated Commercial Environment collections platform. CBP says it will use the loan to make progress more quickly as the collections modernization effort has faced several uphill challenges requiring the agency to pause and reconsider its approach since 2017. CBP says the TMF loan will help it move the collections platform off of 30-year-old COBOL code and into the cloud. (Federal News Network)
  • Federal cyber experts get ready to test your mettle in the second annual President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency yesterday said the 2020 competition will challenge individuals and teams to solve problems across eight specific in-demand skill sets. These include cyber defense analyst, cyber defense forensics analyst and software developer. Registration is open through August 14. Last year, a team from Army Cyber Command won and a cadet at the Air Force Academy won the individual competition.

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