The Department of Agriculture (USDA) entered phase one of its reopening plans on June 1 for its offices in the National Capital Region – D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia – a spokesperson confirmed to MeriTalk.
“USDA started its phase one reopening in line with DC, MD, and Northern VA bringing all National Capital Region (NCR) political appointees back on June 1,” the USDA spokesperson said. “The rest of our NCR employees will come back gradually throughout the phases at the discretion of mission areas.”
USDA employees will have a seven-day notice on when they’re expected to report back to the office for duty.
In a similar move to the Office of Personnel Management’s reopening plans, common areas in USDA offices will be closed and employee schedules will be staggered to promote social distancing during phase one office reopening.
Under phase one, USDA offices in the NCR are instructed to lift mandatory telework orders, but “telework should still be widely practiced,” according to the agency’s reopening playbook obtained by Federal News Network. The playbook instructs offices to prioritize the return of employees and contractors that are mission-critical or have customer-facing jobs.
When the agency progresses to phase two, offices will lift the maximum telework requirement and employees with a “practical and operational need to be onsite” will return. High-risk employees will still be able to telework and eligible for weather and safety leave. Other responsibilities such as caregiving will also be considered when assessing telework needs. Food and no-contact retail vendors will be allowed back on-site at USDA facilities, but visitors will be restricted to essential, time-sensitive, scheduled visits only.
In phase three, up to 100 percent of employees and contractors will be able to return to the offices. The agency will still consider telework for employees with medical documentation of their high-risk status and those with caregiving responsibilities. At this point, social distancing will still be practiced but common areas will start to reopen. Phase three still only permits mission essential travel.