Earlier today, the SFWT issued guidance to agencies on how to enforce the vaccine mandate outlined in EO 14043 and also clarified how it will apply to new hires. Already we are receiving reports from members who are receiving notes from doctors stating employees should not receive a vaccination - this is not the correct procedure. 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.
OPM is recommending that agencies begin progressive discipline as early as November 9th. Employees who do not receive their final dose of the vaccine on or before November 8th will not meet the November 22nd deadline to be considered 'fully vaccinated. Based upon the SFWT guidance, a noncompliant employee would be counseled and educated then given five days to take steps to come into compliance. Should they fail to do so, then the next step is a suspension of 14 days or less. Should they fail to take action to come into compliance, then the final step is to recommend removal. Please wait for further guidance from Treasury and IRS and, as always, remember to work closely with your LR Specialist and next-level manager on November 9th.
For new hires, OPM recommends making all offers contingent upon demonstration of vaccination status (or eligibility for an exemption). Offer letters would be tentative until the candidate is vaccinated, then a revised final offer would be made. In situations where a new hire must start before they can become fully vaccinated, they will generally have no more than 60 days from their hire date to comply. If they fail to do so, and are probationary, they would be separated from service. Learn more in the FAQs.
This afternoon, the Department of Labor issued FECA Bulletin 22-01, Coverage for Injuries Resulting from the COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate for Federal Employees. Be sure to follow IRS procedures for reporting workplace injuries should an employee report an injury related to the vaccine mandate. If an employee is covered by the executive order and they were vaccinated on or after September 9, 2021, FECA coverage (AKA workers' comp) may be afforded for (1) adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccination and (2) injuries sustained as the direct result of an employee receiving their mandated vaccination. Examples of such injuries include but are not limited to accidents while commuting a reasonable distance to and from the vaccination site and slip and fall injuries occurring at the vaccination site.
Employees will be able to receive the Pfizer Booster at all three (10/06, 10/22, 10/27) of the remaining planned events. Other types of boosters might be made available on 10/22 & 10/27, but on 10/06 only the Pfizer Booster will be available.
The criteria is below, but the quick summary is if an employee received both shots more than six months ago they will be able to receive the booster.
Receiving the Pfizer Booster will be handled the same way as received all other vaccinations; Employees can schedule a time or walk in the day of (but may have to wait).
Wednesday, 10/6; 2-6PM CDT; Recruitment Room, Pershing Building, Lower Level; All KC Metro IRS Employees
Friday, 10/22; 12-6PM CDT; Recruitment Room, Pershing Building, Lower Level; All KC Metro IRS Employees
Wednesday, 10/27; 2-6PM CDT; Location TBD; All KC Metro IRS Employees
If you have not been fully vaccinated, please make plans to do so! Administrative Leave is provided to all employees to receive the vaccine (990-85540) and for recovery time if necessary.
PMA attended a kick-off call this week with OPM and some FEHB partners to hear more about what's planned for the coming year. The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program open season period will run from November 8th until December 13th, and that next year, federal workers will pay an average of 3.8% more toward health insurance premiums. Non-postal federal workers enrolled in “self-only” plans will pay an average of $3.17 more in premiums per biweekly pay period, while employees in “self plus one” plans will pay $7.61 more per pay period on average. Feds who are enrolled in family coverage will pay an average of $10.09 more per pay period in 2022. The average 3.8% cost increase for feds marks the second straight year in which the growth of FEHBP costs has slowed. In 2021, federal workers saw an average increase of 4.9% in employee premiums, while the price of insurance spiked 5.6% in 2020.
PMA will offer access to Consumers' Checkbook for all our members so you have access to a robust tool to help you forecast your health expenses and choose the plan that's best for you. We will share more details later in the month.
Through October 9, 2021, managers have discretionary authority to grant up to 20 hours of excused absence per pay period to evacuated, telework-eligible employees with home caregiving responsibilities due to COVID-19 that prevent the accomplishment of work. Beginning on October 10, 2021, and continuing through December 31, 2021, this discretionary authority is being reduced by the Treasury Department to up to 16 hours per pay period. This temporary excused absence authority expires upon lifting of the Servicewide IRS COVID-19 evacuation order, lifting of the IRS COVID-19 evacuation order applicable to the employee, or by December 31, 2021, the expiration date recently established by the Department of Treasury, whichever occurs first. Please refer to the Interim Guidance Memo for questions on eligibility and documentation requirements. This memo will be updated soon with the new hour limitation.
Late Thursday, President Biden signed a continuing resolution which funds the government through December 3, 2021. The CR also provides funding for disaster relief and assistance to Afghans. While this saved the workforce, and our taxpayers, the pain of navigating a lapse in appropriations during a public health crisis, it's still true that Congress has passed zero of the 12 bills necessary to fund the government through FY22.
The current legislative dispute is over the Senate's infrastructure bill, which is pending a vote in the House. This vote was planned for Monday, then rescheduled for Thursday, then for today, and now is delayed. The House's budget reconciliation bill, a $3.5 trillion piece of legislation, is held up by a few senators. While they fight that out, Secretary Yellen notified Congress that we will meet the "X-date" on October 18th - that is the date after which the government will no longer be able to pay its bills. As they did in 2011, the Senate minority is refusing to participate in raising or suspending the debt ceiling. In 2011, this resulted in the first ever downgrade of America's credit. The Senate has a path to raise the limit through reconciliation but it will be a very tight timeline to do so. The acrimony in the Senate is especially saddening and we are working with our partners on either side of the aisle to encourage compromise and to highlight the harm congressional inaction brings to our members and our taxpayers.