$3T HEROES Act pushes telework, extends protections to feds
- By Lia Russell
- May 13, 2020
The House of Representatives proposed a COVID-19 relief bill that appropriates more than $3 trillion on economic rescue for individuals and small business, but it also provides for expanded telework for the federal workforce and contractors during the coronavirus pandemic.
While eligibility to telework had been a source of confusion during the early days of the virus, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, would push agencies to expand telework usage while disincentivizing any efforts to scale it back.
The bill also would require agencies to allow contractors to telework during the pandemic if the nature of their jobs allowed for it and to give periodic updates to Congress. Contractors who received adverse performance ratings as a result of contract disruptions due to COVID-19 would not be penalized.
Federal workers who were no longer able to meet the physical requirements of their jobs due to exposure to COVID-19, and as a result moved to other civil service jobs, would be allowed to remain on their existing retirement plans.
Workers who contracted COVID-19 and whose jobs required extensive contact with the public, such as Transportation Security Officers, would be presumed to have contracted the virus while on the job and would be granted workers compensation accordingly.
The HEROES Act would also extend a provision of premium pay intended for a wide range of frontline essential workers in the private sector and in state and local government -- from grocery store workers to mass transit operators to first responders -- to feds. Under the bill, federal workers would be eligible for the premium pay, and the Office of Personnel Management would be tasked with developing corresponding regulations.
On oversight, the bill would allow the Chair of the Committee of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency greater flexibility when choosing an official to oversee overall COVID-19 relief funding. It would also require the president to give at least 30 days' notice to Congress before putting an IG official on administrative leave and require congressional justification for any IG seat that is empty for 210 days. IGs would be able to be removed only for just cause, such as neglect, inefficiency, or abuse of authority -- a provision for which independent watchdogs had long advocated.
The House is planning a vote on Friday.
Senate leadership is not looking to move the bill anytime soon. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters May 12 that he doesn't feel "urgency" to take up the House legislation. At the same press conference, Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) called the bill a "laundry list" and said "it's not going anywhere."