Senators Scrutinize Lack of OPM Briefings During Pandemic

Several members of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs are criticizing the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for its lack of Senate briefings on the Federal workforce during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

In an April 27 letter to OPM Acting Director Michael Rigas, six senators – Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., Thomas Carper, D-Del., Margaret Wood Hassan, D-N.H., Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Jacky Rosen, D-Nev. – wrote that OPM “has refused to provide regular and timely briefings to this Committee regarding its work to support the Federal workforce” since March 17.

The senators went on to explain that the “fast-moving nature” of the pandemic means its “even more important” to receive updates on OPM’s policies for the Federal workforce. The committee would also like information on how OPM is implementing those policies “in order to conduct necessary oversight and fully represent our constituents’ needs.”

By May 4, the senators are asking the agency to explain how OPM is “working to harmonize” Federal workforce guidelines across the government. Specifically, the committee wants details on how OPM is overseeing politics such as telework, paid leave, operating guidance, and remote work equipment. They also ask about how frontline employees who cannot telework are being issued personally protective equipment and how OPM is monitoring the availability of safety and weather leave.

“We hope that we can expect much greater cooperation from OPM in the coming weeks and months,” the senators assert. “While we appreciate the voluntary guidance provided to federal agencies, guidance on its own is not enough, and OPM should be closely monitoring and working with agencies to ensure they are taking every possible step to protect the health and safety of their employees.”

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