While the broader implications of the midterm election results for policies that affect the civil service may remain unknown for some time, federal employee supporters have won several key competitive races. This could be good news for salary and benefits.
Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger won her bid for Virginia’s 7th congressional district in a race considered one of the tightest in the nation. Spanberger, a former CIA employee, in 2019 used her first address from the floor of the House to highlight the plight of federal employees during the government shutdown. His first bill was to insure the back wages of federal employees.
Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., was also re-elected. She helped enact paid parental leave for the federal government and calls herself a “leader in the fight for wage increases for our tireless federal workers.” She pushed for greater oversight of agency moves, for increased telecommuting and for increased childcare benefits.
Spanberger, Wexton and other supporters of federal employees may have to push back on proposed cuts to federal wages and benefits, in what appears to be a divided government for the first time under the Biden administration. Stay tuned for more coverage of the election results and what they may mean for the federal workforce.
Lawmakers propose other changes to civil service loan forgiveness
As the Biden administration moves forward with a series of regulatory changes aimed at making the popular civil service loan forgiveness program easier for borrowers to use, some congressional lawmakers are proposing legislation to restructure the program to that more public servants can participate, more quickly.
Last week marked the expiration of a series of temporary waivers that made the program, which offers student debt forgiveness to recent graduates who spend at least 10 years working in government or a nonprofit organization eligible. while making regular payments, easier to navigate. But many of the provisions of these temporary fixes will be permanently part of the program next July.
The recent focus on the program has prompted some House Democrats to rethink how it should work. Representatives Jim Clyburn, DS.C., and Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., recently introduced the Public Service Award Act (HR 9097), which would ensure that instead of receiving full forgiveness after 10 years of service, benefit claimants would receive a portion of the loan forgiveness for the value of each year of consecutive loan repayments.
The bill would also expand the loans eligible for forgiveness, to include Federal Home Education Loans, Perkins Loans, Direct Consolidation Loans and Parent Plus Loans, in addition to the Direct Loans already included in the program. Consolidating debt into a single loan would also no longer reset borrowers’ clocks in an effort to seek forgiveness.
Uneven implementation of Biden’s updated voting leave policies
One of the Biden administration’s first moves to improve working conditions for federal employees and encourage voter turnout was to expand paid time off for federal employees to vote or volunteer at a polling place. But recent government executive reports have revealed that some agencies have been slow to implement the new benefit, while others have imposed severe restrictions on the practice.
Some agencies have justified their implementation of guardrails by giving feds up to four hours off to vote and up to eight hours to serve as election judges, citing their need to ensure adequate staff and meet other election day operational needs.
Others simply ignored Biden’s executive order or insisted they were still studying how to implement the policy. A union representing US Army Corps of Engineers employees in the Chicago area filed a unfair labor practice complaint against the agency’s management for its inaction.
Union officials expressed frustration that, nearly 20 months after Biden’s order was signed into law and eight months after the Office of Personnel Management issued guidelines to help agencies implement the directive, the Department of Defense instructed its component agencies to follow the old voting leave policy, which dates back to 2015. They said the move marks a trend, in which management is “walking slowly” on some labor policies. work but not on others.
Eric Katz contributed to this column.