U.S Rep. Jody B. Hice (R-GA) greets Georgia Army National Guardsmen and families during the Milledgeville based Company D, 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment’s Afghanistan deployment ceremony on Nov.26, 2018. The unit is deploying to Afghanistan to support training the Afghan National Army for the next 9 months.  U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class R.J. Lannom Jr

Congress

Republican lawmakers want feds back in the office

Rep. Hice with Georgia Army National Guardsmen and families in 2018 (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class R.J. Lannom Jr.)

Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, wants to know when feds will go back in the office.

In a May 18 letter to Kathleen McGettigan, acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, Hice said it was time for federal employees to go back to the workplace "to the fullest possible degree." He pointed to recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in most indoor and outdoor locations and to rising vaccination rates.

Hice, who is giving up his seat in Congress to run for secretary of state in Georgia, wrote that the shift to almost 100% remote work has taken a toll on customer service functions, with negative effects for veterans and Social Security beneficiaries.

"This is particularly critical for the most vulnerable of our constituents including seniors and low-income Americans, as well as individuals who may not have internet access or the computer skills necessary to navigate an entirely virtual interaction with a government agency," Hice wrote.

Hice also noted that he'd like to see some consideration given to rethinking locality pay and the overall government real estate footprint if large-scale teleworking continues post-COVID.

"If fully remote work arrangements continue indefinitely into the future, the taxpayers would benefit from reassessing whether remote workers should be considered eligible for locality pay," Hice said, noting the significant locality pay bump for feds in the National Capital Region.

Hice requested a staff-level briefing no later than May 25, 2021 on the preparation and planning on bringing federal workers back into the office.

Leaders at OPM have stated that the agency is preparing guidance that will provide agencies the flexibility to continue remote and telework going forward after of the pandemic.

Reader comments

Tue, May 25, 2021 GM Washington DC

As a fed worker who has teleworked for the past year I can say our office was definitely more productive in this posture. Admittedly, our office did not interact with the general public in person prior to covid. I will say I have thought about moving further away from the office where housing is cheaper—-to a distance where I could still commute one day a week and telework the remaining four.

Mon, May 24, 2021

I agree 100% that we do need some people back in the office. I would also like to remind Jody however that Fed employees are also tax payers and before you look to take more away from us, keep in mind that while working from home, we are using our own gas, electric, plumbing etc. Perhaps you need to look at decreasing office space where possible vs. reducing locality pay.

Sat, May 22, 2021

And if anybody still too scared to go back to normal, even now, you might as well lock yourself up in your the rest of your life. Let the world keep turning and going and quit your drama.

Fri, May 21, 2021

As an anti-government rightwing zealot, Hice's primary motivation here is to remind his constituents that federal employees can't be trusted to work at home. His statements about some in the public not having internet access or computer skills ring hollow given that most National Capitol Region employees, a special focus of his concern, have never had much face-to-face contact with the general public anyway. Hice made his true feelings about federal employees perfectly clear in his statements about the January 6 Capitol rioters. David Cicilline, D-R.I., introduced a resolution to the House on May 17 to censure Hice (among others) for his remarks. Is it any wonder Hice came back with a diversion like this letter to OPM the very next day?

Fri, May 21, 2021

They always trying to find a way to lower our pay. If I still live in the national capital region that I should still draw that locality pay. Regardless of whether I'm working from home or not.

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