Last week, the SFWT issued FAQs in an effort to comply with EO 14043, the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Federal workers. PMA proactively sought clear, consistent guidance from the taskforce on religious and medical exemptions so that reasonable accommodations could be adjudicated quickly, equitably, and uniformly. Unfortunately, the FAQs in their current form do not provide sufficient guidance to agencies or managers on how to proceed. We are grateful to the Treasury Department and to IRS Leadership for interpreting this information as quickly as possible and implementing changes to current processes as we continue to wait for more information from the centers of government.
The Executive Order requires Federal workers to be fully vaccinated by November 22, 2021. "Fully vaccinated" status is achieved two weeks after the final dose of a COVID-19 vaccination series. This means unvaccinated workers will need to begin Moderna vaccinations no later than October 11th, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations no later than October 18th, and the J&J/Janssen single-dose vaccination no later than November 8th in order to comply with the EO. Exemptions from the mandate for medical reasons and/or sincerely held religious beliefs will be handled through existing processes at the IRS. Workers seeking medical exemptions will need to complete Form 13661 and submit it to the Reasonable Accommodations branch. Workers seeking religious exemptions will need to contact the EDI Disability branch. The IRS will adjudicate these exemptions once guidance is made available by the SFWT. To manage expectations, requesting an exemption does not necessarily mean it will be granted.
We understand that our members have a variety of personal beliefs around the pandemic and vaccinations. As leaders in government, we are sure you understand that those personal beliefs will not change the Executive Order or your collective obligation to comply with orders from the president. We ask that you keep this in mind when using government email to communicate with PMA - our prerogative is to support you as you work to implement this order. Instructions on how to input your vaccination status into HRConnect, including FAQs are available on the IRS Source COVID-19 vaccine page. To learn more about vaccines and find a convenient location to get vaccinated, go to vaccines.gov (or for information in Spanish, vacunas.gov).
The Congress returned from recess this week and resumed debate over a number of significant pieces of legislation. PMA has been tracking FY22 funding, budget reconciliation, the infrastructure bill, disaster aid, and the debt ceiling as the five major legislative initiatives needing to pass with urgency. Congress has planned for weeks to hold those votes next week but signals from the Senate minority indicate that political acrimony will once again leave the government in a state of limbo. This week, the House passed legislation which funds the government through December 3rd and suspends the debt limit through December 2022 but we do not expect the Senate to pass the bill in its current form. Given competing political priorities and recalcitrance in the Senate, our best hope is for a series of short-term CRs which would come at the end of next week.
For its part, the administration notified agencies to begin preparing for an orderly shutdown. A shutdown this year would be different from any other - in the aftermath of the 2018-2019 shutdown, Congress passed a law mandating backpay for the Civil Service in all future lapses in appropriations. This means that, while there would possibly be unacceptable and painful delays in receiving paychecks, paychecks would arrive and you will not need to worry whether Congress will authorize backpay. Obviously, a shutdown during a public health crisis is unprecedented and it remains to be seen how agencies would adapt their shutdown plans to continue to important work of support our nation and taxpayers through the pandemic.
Out of the more than two million individuals employed by the Federal Government, it is quite possible that you could have important questions regarding your federal benefits. A limited understanding of FEGLI, your Pension, Survivors Annuity, FEHB, Social Security and Thrift Savings Plan could cost you thousands of dollars during your working career, and even larger amounts of money during your retirement. This webinar will include provide much needed information so you can understand your current situation, what things cost, how those costs change over time, how you are trending towards retirement, and the additional options available to you.
Join PMA's newest partner, American Benefits Exchange, for a one-hour Zoom webinar on Tuesday, September 28th, at 3PM Eastern. This free event is open to everyone - register today!
PMA recommends attending this Zoom webinar using your personal device for the best experience.
Federal benefits expert Tammy Flanagan reports, "Timing is everything when it comes to retirement planning. If you retire too early, you might find you’ll have to tighten your belt or start a second career. If you wait too long, you might miss out on some of the joys of being retired, like spending more time with family, traveling or pursuing hobbies. Deciding what time is right takes a combination of financial planning, tax analysis and soul searching." Read more and determine the best dates to retire in 2022 with this downloadable calendar.
Last year, FEEA introduced a new tutoring program created to help fill the urgent need many families were facing during national K-12 school disruptions. They are resuming the program now for the 2021-22 school year to continue assisting families during the ongoing pandemic. Through a partnership with Tutor.com, the program provides free, 1:1, online, on-demand tutoring in all of the most common K-12 academic subjects. Kids can get help when they need it, from an experienced tutor.
Due to the popularity of the program and FEEA's limited funding, there are two important changes for the current school year:
1. Annual salary must be less than $75,000. This applies to the full-time or full-time-equivalent salary of the federal employee parent, including any locality pay.
2. Each participating family will be limited to 1,000 minutes of tutoring (approximately 16 hours total per family). Please note this is a per-family limit, regardless of the number of eligible children in the family.
All families wishing to participate -- including those who registered last year -- must submit an application. FEEA encourages parents to register early so tutoring is available when your family needs it. Application processing can take up to 10 business days. Please visit feea.org/tutoring for complete program information and check out the FAQs for answers to the most common questions.
Sign up for one of the training sessions September 28, 29 or 30; ensure you’re trained before the October 1 implementation date.