This week brought the implementation of two policies in the stimulus bill that are specific to federal workers.

First, federal employees who performed work in response to the COVID-19 crisis became eligible for higher premium pay caps.  Some of this must be reimbursed by FEMA, while some may come directly from the employing agency.

The second piece of news relates to the Thrift Savings Plan.  Required Minimum Distributions, which typically must be taken either at 70 ½ or shortly after retirement, are waived during this year.  This will prevent beneficiaries from having to draw from their account directly after the downturn, reducing the base of money which can grow in the future.

There are many others provisions specific to federal employees or contractors being discussed by Democratic members of the House – not all of these are likely to make it into negotiations with Senate Republicans, and even those that do may be altered during those negotiations.  Among these provisions are childcare coverage for front-line federal employees, an increased speed of payment to small business government contractors, and forcing agencies to allow teleworking employees to have children at home while working.

Perhaps the most interesting proposal is one that would prevent agencies from imposing blanket bans on telework even after the COVID-19 crisis has concluded.  This isn’t only for the benefit of employees who value a flexible workplace.  It also would prevent another situation where agencies must pivot from no teleworking to a massive teleworking capability in a matter of days.  These dual benefits of a permissive teleworking policy are likely to make work-from-home arrangements more common within government agencies even in the absence of legislation mandating it. 

Allowing telework will have another benefit – it will make federal jobs more attractive to younger workers, who value the ability to work from home.  Or at least they did – after months stuck in their houses, teleworking might finally be arriving just in time for everyone to crave time outside of their own four walls.  The grass might just always be greener outside the other building.

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