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FMA Washington Report: September 15, 2023

This report provides an update on issues affecting federal managers. As always, I encourage you to visit www.fedmanagers.org on a regular basis for more information on these and other matters.

Also, be sure to look for the monthly FMA Grassroots Update, where we offer links to action letters and FMA-PAC matters we do not address in the Washington Report. The grassroots newsletter is sent exclusively to non-governmental email addresses to avoid any Hatch Act violations. If you are not receiving it, contact the national office to provide your non-governmental email address.

Please feel free to provide feedback any time by emailing Greg Stanford at gstanford@fedmanagers.org or by calling the National Office at (703) 683-8700. Thank you for your membership in FMA. It’s an honor to represent your interests before Congress and the administration.

Legislative Outreach
FMA Urges Congress to Avert Another Government Shutdown

On September 8, FMA National President Craig Carter wrote a letter to all members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, urging them to fund Fiscal Year 2024 and avert a government shutdown. Funding for the federal government expires on September 30. You can read a full copy of Carter’s letter to Congress here.

We at FMA grudgingly support a CR in lieu of a shutdown,” Carter wrote. “However, if we, as federal workers, never completed our work on time and had to continually ask for a four-to-six-week extension, we would probably be seeking employment elsewhere. By not appropriating funds, and working under a CR every year, this causes extra costs to agencies having to work under the previous year’s budget, and does not allow agencies proper planning opportunities, including being able to buy equipment and supplies in bulk to save money.”

House Consideration of Defense Spending Bill Delayed

In keeping with the overall theme of challenges facing the twelve funding bills for Fiscal Year 2024, House leaders paused consideration of the FY24 defense spending package (H.R. 4365) this week. There are concerns the bill does not currently have the votes necessary to approve the rules package that controls House floor debate. This adds to the complications facing the end of Fiscal Year 2023 (September 30, 2023) and the potential for a government shutdown. House leaders are hopeful the pause will give them enough time to gather the votes needed to approve the rule that governs debate.

The Rules committee approved a rule allowing full House consideration of 184 amendments to the $826.4 billion bill. The full House must approve the rule before it can debate the underlying bill. The challenges facing the defense bill signal additional challenges other spending bills, such as the Homeland Security bill House leaders intend to bring to the floor during the week of September 18.

FMA-Endorsed GPO/WEP Repeal Bill Reaches Major Milestone

Last month we shared about the introduction of FMA-endorsed legislation, the Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act of 2023 (H.R. 4260), which would reform the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). While FMA supports that effort, our ultimate goal remains full repeal of both the WEP and the Government Pension Offset (GPO), and we are making steady progress toward that goal.

On Wednesday, September 13, Reps. Garret Graves (R-LA) and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) announced at a news conference that the bipartisan Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 82) they introduced at the beginning of the 118th Congress now has 290 cosponsors. H.R. 82 would fully repeal both the GPO and WEP. The companion bill in the Senate (S. 597), sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) currently has 45 cosponsors.

What's Affecting Feds?
Feds On Track to Receive Largest Pay Raise Since 1980

On August 31, President Biden sent a letter to congressional leadership formally issuing the call for a 5.2 percent across-the-board pay raise for federal employees in 2024, made up of a 4.7 percent increase to base pay and an average boost of 0.5 percent for locality pay. It maintains parity with the pay raise for the uniformed military, included in both the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act, and it would be the largest pay raise in 44 years.

Under Title 5, United States Code, Biden is authorized to implement “alternative plans for pay adjustments” for feds if “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare,” call for it. Congress has stayed silent on the issue of federal employee pay throughout the summer, effectively endorsing the 5.2 percent raise included in Biden’s transmittal. If enacted, the raise would take effect in January 2024.

Agency Outreach
OPM Guidance on Hours of Work for Telework and Remote Work Employees

On August 21, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released a memo titled "Guidance on Hours of Work for Telework and Remote Work Employees." The memo, issued by Veronica Hinton, Executive Director, Employee Services at OPM, was prepared, "to assist agencies and employees in understanding the rules governing when travel time is considered hours of work for teleworkers and remote workers." The full document is available on FMA's Resources and Links page or by clicking here.

The document includes background and links related to telework and remote work issues, addressing specific topics including work location flexibility, work hours flexibility, and crediting of work hours. The memo then outlines applying Title 5 and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) hours of work rules to telework and remote work employees. Finally, the memo offers three teleworker scenarios and four remote worker scenarios, providing real world examples of how hours of work are credited under different facts and circumstances (i.e., prior to the start of the workday, after the start of the work day, and remote worksites in different time zones than the agency worksite.)

OPM Updates FMA on the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

On September 7, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) provided FMA, and other federal employee organizations, with an update on plans for the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP). Applications for coverage under FLTCIP were suspended December 19, 2022, to allow OPM and the FLTCIP carrier, John Hancock Life & Health Insurance Company, time to assess the benefit offerings and establish sustainable premium rates that reasonably and equitably reflect the cost of the benefits provided.

Recent analysis of the program’s actual and projected experience concludes that a premium rate increase is needed. The current FLTCIP premiums are not sufficient to meet future projected obligations. Under the extended contract, premium rates will increase for many enrollees effective January 1, 2024. OPM is holding an Enrollee Decision Period for current enrollees from September 11 to November 9, to give them the opportunity to review their current coverage and make decisions that allow them to accept or mitigate the impact of the premium increase.

OPM Guidance: Emergency Leave Transfer for Federal Employees Adversely Affected by Hurricane Idalia in 2023

On September 14, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a memorandum titled, “Emergency Leave Transfer for Federal Employees Adversely Affected by Hurricane Idalia 2023.” The severe weather event directly impacted Americans in Florida and South Carolina beginning on August 27, 2023, and you can access the full memo here.

“In the event of a major disaster or emergency as declared by the President that results in severe adverse effects for a substantial number of federal employees, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), may establish an emergency leave transfer program (ELTP),” wrote OPM Director Kiran Ahuja. “After coordinating with federal agencies to assess the impact on employees in the declared disaster areas, OPM, in consultation with OMB, has determined that an ELTP program is warranted for Hurricane Idalia 2023.”

OPM – Retirement Quick Guide

In March, OPM launched a Retirement Quick Guide that shares what feds can expect through the retirement application process, how benefits are determined, and guidelines related to their interim and annuity payments. You can also view a three-page printable PDF version of the quick guide here: https://www.opm.gov/retirement-center/retirement-quick-guide/opm-retirement-quick-guide.pdf.

Lori Amos, Deputy Associate Director for OPM’s Retirement Services, recently commented on the progress made in 2023 on reducing the total number of outstanding retirement claims and new tools OPM has for prospective retirees. “This guide is our attempt to improve customer experience. We have put a lot of work, time, and effort based on feedback that we have received from our retiree community. Our goal is to be able to give [federal employees and retirees] information about the voluntary retirement process.”

Get Involved At These Events!
FMA Regions 3 & 4 Conference: September 29-30, 2023

Gather with fellow FMA members to network, discuss the work of FMA, and have some fun in beautiful Lake Tahoe! The FMA Regions 3 & 4 Conference will be conducted September 29-30, 2023, at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, in Nevada. The conference promises some excellent training, information sharing, and fun networking. We look forward to seeing you there!

Click here for more information.

Regions 1 & 2 Conference: October 20-22, 2023

The FMA Regions 1 & 2 Conference is quickly approaching, October 20-22, 2022, in Manchester, New Hampshire. If you are able, please plan to join FMA colleagues from throughout Regions 1 and 2 for a great networking opportunity!

Registration materials will be available on the events page on FMA’s website in the coming days.

Share Your Stories to Support FEEA

FMA is a long-time supporter and board member of the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEA). We support their mission of “Feds Helping Feds,” and conduct FMA’s Scholarship Program through FEEA, which allows for many more award opportunities for FMA members and their families. At this time, we are asking FMA members to support FEEA by participating in their Stories in Motion effort.

We are excited to share an opportunity for recognition within the federal community from our friends at FEEA. They are unveiling a new chapter in their Feds in Motion Challenge – Stories in Motion.

FEEA is looking for real stories from feds like you. Have you faced a professional hurdle and emerged stronger? Led an innovative project that you're proud of? Or found a unique way to keep moving forward in your job? We want to hear your story, and more importantly, we want to share it.


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