Subcommittee Examined Need for Sufficient, Evidenced-Based Plan for Reopening Government Workplaces
Washington, D.C. (June 25, 2020)—Today, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, held a hearing examining how the government can protect federal employees while continuing operations and providing vital resources to the public.
Members and witnesses agreed that the Administration’s guidance for reopening government workplaces is unclear, incomplete, and poses risks to the health and safety of the 2.5 million federal public servants and an estimated 3.7 million federal contractors who comprise our civil service.
This morning, in response to the Administration’s insufficient guidance, Chairman Connolly introduced two pieces of legislation that would support the civil servants who continue to serve our country.
The Chaicharn Suthammanont Remembrance Act, cosponsored by Chairwoman Maloney and Reps. Norton, Sarbanes, Raskin, Gomez, Lynch, Lawrence, Speier, and Khanna, would require each federal agency to publish online a plan to reopen a federal office building at least 30 days prior to the return of federal employees.
The Federal Workforce Health and Safety During the Pandemic Act, cosponsored by Chairwoman Maloney and Reps. Norton, Sarbanes, Raskin, Lynch, Lawrence, and Khanna, would, among other things, extend hazard pay and provide childcare reimbursements to those federal employees working on the frontlines.
At the hearing, the Subcommittee heard testimony from Jacqueline Simon, National Policy Director of the American Federation of Government Employees; Lorraine Martin, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Safety Council; J. Christopher Mihm, Managing Director for Strategic Issues of the Government Accountability Office; and The Honorable Jim DeMint, Chairman of the Conservative Partnership Institute.
Witnesses discussed the need for an evidenced-based plan from the Administration for reopening federal workplaces:
- Witnesses stressed the importance of establishing evidenced-based, safety-centered reentry plans that the federal workforce and American public can have confidence in. Mr. Mihm stated, “we have to also have confidence, and employees have to have confidence, that, as we reopen, they will be safe in the workplace and they’ll be safe in their interactions with the public. And the public has to have confidence that they will be safe in their interactions with government.”
- Witnesses discussed how guidance from the Office of Personnel Management and other federal agencies has been inadequate compared to guidance from the private sector. When asked whether the American Federation of Government Employees has received guidance comparable to that provided by large private companies and organizations, Ms. Simon responded, “Absolutely not. It’s a complete patchwork. There’s not only inconsistency among the agencies, but inconsistency from location to location.”
- Witnesses agreed that the federal government should serve as a model for reentry to the workplace for the private sector, but has failed to do so. Ms. Martin stated, “I do think this is a place where the federal government can set an example, but the example that I would like to see set is that we are following all the guidance from the health organizations, from some of the companies…who have very detailed playbooks on how to bring their folks back to work and when to bring them back.”