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Report: FEMA overpaid temp employees

Last year, during one of the most challenging disaster response periods in the Federal Emergency Management Agency history, the agency overpaid some of its temporary emergency response workers.

Three major hurricanes — Harvey, Irma, and Maria — in addition to California wildfires in 2017, prompted FEMA to enlist the help of non-disaster response personnel to temporary disaster-related assignments.

The Department of Homeland Security's inspector general found that when the agency ended the biweekly premium pay cap waivers that was granted for each of the three hurricanes, the Office of Personnel  Management took the “unusual” step of issuing its own waiver to the biweekly premium pay cap for work related to the three hurricanes, but FEMA agency leaders failed to ensure that workers did not exceed the cap.

“We found that FEMA overpaid its employees because it mistakenly believed the department’s payroll provider had an automated control to prevent payments over the annual cap, and because it did not follow its own premium pay policy,” the IG report states. “We also found that FEMA has no effective policy or practice to determine the Fair Labor Standards Act status of FEMA employees during disaster deployments, which also contributed to this issue,” it added.

Since discovering the overpayments, FEMA has been working determine just how many workers were overpaid, but the IG recommends FEMA also determine a way to prevent it from occurring again in the future.

Read the fill IG report here.

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Edward A. Zurndorfer Certified Financial Planner
Mike Causey Columnist
Tom Fox VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service
Mathew B. Tully Legal Analyst

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