Federal employees used 58% of special emergency paid vacation fund for COVID-19
The federal workforce used just over half of the funds Congress set aside earlier this year for a special emergency leave program.
The American Rescue Plan Act, which Congress enacted in March, created a $ 570 million emergency paid vacation fund that allowed federal employees to take time off for various reasons related to the pandemic.
Employees were each entitled to 600 hours, or 15 weeks, of paid leave to self-quarantine, recover from a personal infection, or care for a family member sick with COVID-19. They could also use emergency paid leave to recover from unwanted symptoms after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Office of Personnel Management was responsible for administering the fund on behalf of the executive branch and the United States Postal Service. The OPM officially launched the program at the end of April.
Eligible federal employees had until September 30 to request emergency paid leave, on the expiration date of the US bailout, or earlier if funds were depleted before that date.
“Sept. The 30th was the last day a federal employee could take emergency paid leave under the ARP program,” the agency said in a statement to Federal News Network. “However, leave requests used on or before this expiration date are still being processed. The OPM can make reimbursements to agencies from the ARP Fund until September 2022. “
As of October 16, agencies had used up just over $ 330.5 million, or about 58% of the ARP fund. About $ 239.5 million remains in the fund, according to OPM’s latest public report on the state of ARP funds.
The OPM will return any remaining funds to the Treasury by the end of fiscal 2022, the agency said.
The Postal Service, which typically has its own benefit funds separate from the rest of the federal government, was the largest user of the emergency paid vacation program. Employees used nearly 10 million hours, according to an OPM dashboard that tracked emergency paid holidays across government.
Among other agencies, the totals vary widely.
(Source: Office of Personnel Management ARPA Emergency Paid Leave Dashboard, last updated Oct. 16)
Employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the second government agency behind the Pentagon, used about 357,436 hours of leave, according to the OPM dashboard.
The Defense Finance Accounting Service, a sub-agency of the Department of Defense with just under 11,000 employees, used more than double that amount.
IRS and Social Security Administration employees each used more than 300,000 hours.
Agencies followed a different process to approve and pay for these temporary emergency paid leave benefits than previous emergency or traditional programs. Employees first requested emergency paid leave from their agencies, which were supposed to conditionally approve it if they met the eligibility requirements.
Employees could use the leave immediately while their agencies requested time reimbursement from the OPM.
Congress created the emergency paid vacation program because many states still had relatively high COVID workloads and vaccines were not yet available to the vast majority of the American public – and before the Biden administration ‘announces a series of new vaccine policies for federal employees.
The Biden administration has given all executive employees until Nov. 22 to be fully immunized, although some agencies with their own mandates have set earlier deadlines, such as VA.
While federal employees can no longer request paid time off through ARP, agencies are expected to provide their workers with administrative leave to recover from any unwanted symptoms after receiving the vaccine and accompany family members to do so. vaccinate, in accordance with administration policy.
Because receiving the vaccine is now a job requirement, agencies no longer hand out administrative leave to employees to get the vaccine. Employees can now receive their vaccine doses during working hours, according to recently updated administration guidelines.
Federal employees who cannot receive a vaccine during their regular working hours can do so on overtime, the administration said.