Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa., is calling for Federal government workers to return to in-office work, as well as an investigation across agencies to determine the “impact of telework on the delivery and response times of services” provided by the government.

The senator’s call for an end to Federal teleworking – and more data from Federal agencies on their telework rates – falls in line with similar sentiments expressed in recent months by leadership of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Her Aug. 29 call to rein in telework also follows news earlier this month that the White House wants to see a sharp uptick in in-office work this fall.

Sen. Ernst minced few words in her call for an end to telework, and appeared to make a distinction between the work ethic of those Federal employees that have been working in government office versus those who have not.

“Growing up on a farm, I know what working from home actually means,” Sen. Ernst said. “It’s not fair to let the responsibilities of running an agency – and the country – fall on the shoulders of the hardworking public servants who are showing up while others are out golfing on the taxpayer’s dime.”

The senator expressed concerns that increased telework has contributed to increases in backlogs of passport applications, increases in calls from veterans for mental health services from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and increased calls at the Social Security Administration (SSA) greeting seniors with “busy messages, [and] waiting longer to speak to a representative.”

Regarding her proposed investigation of the impact of Federal telework, the senator said she wants to find out “how much taxpayer money could be saved by consolidating unused office space, and what steps have been taken to adjust bureaucrats’ location-based salaries for those who have relocated and chosen to remain out of the office.”

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in July that 17 of 24 Federal agencies it looked at used an estimated average 25 percent or less of their headquarters buildings’ capacity in a three-week sample period during the first three months of this year.

“Frustrated Americans are being put on hold while too many federal employees are phoning it in,” the senator said. “I’m calling out federal employees who refuse to answer the call of duty to return to work on behalf of taxpayers, veterans, seniors, and our great nation. It’s time to get back to work.”

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.