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About 4,000 federal employees have filed workers’ compensation claims with the Labor Department due to COVID-19. 60 people have filed death claims. Labor projects COVID-19 claims among federal employees may reach 6,000 in the coming weeks. The department’s inspector general says the division that handles federal employee claims is anticipating a strain in resources due to demand and social distancing mandates. It has alternative staffing plans if COVID-19 compensation claims continue to surge. Labor says it’s accepted over 1,600 federal employees claims so far. Over 2,300 are unadjudicated.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services bought enough time to delay employee furloughs for another month. Employees at USCIS will receive another notice in the coming days that reflects a new potential furlough date of August 30. Agencies by law are supposed to give employees at least 30 days advance notice before a furlough. USCIS says its financial situation for this fiscal year has improved. But it’s still asking for $1.2 billion in emergency funding from Congress. The agency says it needs extra funding to begin and sustain USCIS operations into the next fiscal year. (Federal News Network)
Participants in the Thrift Savings Plan are taking advantage of the provisions Congress passed in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act back in March. Nearly 14,000 participants made a CARES Act withdrawal. The average withdrawal is worth nearly $27,000. Nearly 3,000 people suspended payments on their TSP loans. And 1,200 participants took advantage of the new $100,000 limit on loans from their TSP. Those participants took loans worth an average of $74,000 thanks to the CARES Act. Most of these provisions are set to expire at the end of the year.
One of the largest good-government advocacy groups is getting in front of whomever will occupy the White House next year. It’s the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council, or ACT-IAC. It released a set of recommendations for the next administration. The ideas are aimed at how to improve citizen services, transform the national digital and physical infrastructure, and create what ACT-IAC calls an agile government. It calls for investment in cybersecurity, data, intelligent automation, and also in the workforce and in public private partnerships.
A surge in Freedom of Information Act requests and limited resources at the Department of Homeland Security has limited the agency’s ability to meet FOIA deadlines. The DHS inspector general claims most of those challenges stem from the agency’s more complex requests. The IG found DHS generally met deadlines for simple requests, and the agency’s response times are better than the governmentwide average. DHS takes an average of 15 days to respond to congressional requests, but the IG found some requests have gone unanswered for up to 450 business days.
The Office of Personnel Management says it is cooperating with an inspector general review of Trump administration hiring policies. A House Oversight and Reform subcommittee had asked the OPM IG to investigate the agency’s use of direct hire authority. OPM says it handed over the documents the same day the IG raised concerns to Congress about the agency’s cooperation with the review. The IG told Congress OPM hadn’t turned over relevant documents. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) has raised several concerns about OPM’s compliance with congressional and IG investigations in recent weeks.
Craig Duehring has been nominated as the Defense Department’s deputy undersecretary for personnel and management. If confirmed, he will serve under Matthew Donovan. Duehring formerly served as the Air Force assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs from 2007 to 2009. He also served six years as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. He is a 28 year Air Force veteran and retired as a colonel.
The Defense Department wants to know how it can better teleworking during the coronavirus pandemic. The DoD chief information officer will hold a townhall on August 12 to listen to employees’ concerns and discuss the digital modernization strategy. The Pentagon had to quickly amp up its teleworking capabilities when COVID-19 struck. Since March, nearly a million employees have used DoD’s Commercial Virtual Remote environment to telework.
Support for more IT modernization funding fell short in the Senate. The upper chamber didn’t include any extra money for the Technology Modernization Fund in the initial draft of the latest coronavirus stimulus bill — despite support from Democrat Senators like Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) to include $1 billion for the TMF and match the House’s request from May, Appropriations Committee leaders chose not to bulk up the governmentwide account. Instead Senators allocated $2 billion for the IRS, $53 million for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and $31 million for FEMA for assort technology improvements. The House version of the stimulus bill could still increase the TMF leaving some hope for a real bump in IT modernization.
Military doctors are innovating on the fly during the coronavirus pandemic. Much like in times of conflict when doctors are dealing with unexpected injuries, COVID-19 has led to new inventions and practices. Healthcare providers are sharing therapeutic information through the Joint Trauma System, a database created to discuss combat casualty care. One new device is the COVID-19 Airway Management Isolation Chamber. It is a small, cheap, negatively-pressured tent that fits over a patient’s head and chest. (Federal News Network)
Defense contractors are one step closer to receiving some relief if they aren’t able to work during the coronavirus pandemic. The Senate’s version of the next stimulus bill includes more than $11 billion for the Defense Industrial Base Resiliency Fund. DoD would give the money to vendors who requested an equitable adjustment as part of staying in a ready state to fulfill contract requirements.
The 2020 Census is moving from the mailbox to your inbox. The Census Bureau will send millions of emails this week inviting households in low-response areas to fill out the questionnaire online. The bureau will continue its email campaign through September. The bureau says it borrowed the idea from outreach for its Household Pulse Survey, an experimental survey that gathered real-time health and economic data from households during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Postal Service is launching a loyalty program aimed at small businesses. Starting August 1, business customers will receive a $40 credit for every $500 spent on priority mail and priority mail express spent through the agency’s Click-N-Ship service. Meanwhile, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy says the Postal Service remains in a financially unsustainable position, and calls on Congress and the Postal Regulatory Commission for long-term reform. In the meantime, DeJoy says he’s focused on improving its current operating plans.