Washington D.C. – The task of making sure the emergency assistance provided by the American Rescue Plan reaches the people who need it now falls to federal employees around the country, who are already working diligently to help the United States overcome the financial and public health crisis of the pandemic.
“The President and Congress have done their part by providing the resources, and now frontline federal employees are stepping up to get the aid out the door efficiently and effectively,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.
To that end, the new law authorizes an additional $1.8 billion for the IRS to administer the next round of economic impact payments and integrate, modernize and secure IRS systems.
“The IRS is a key player in the American Rescue Plan, delivering a third round of economic impact payments to eligible households, as well as advance payments of their Child Tax Credit and other types of aid,” Reardon said. “IRS employees are up to the task, even in the middle of a tax filing season, but the extra investment in technology is essential to giving them the tools they need to get the job done as quickly as possible.”
The new law also acknowledges the growing workload at the Food and Drug Administration by providing $500 million in additional funding for its work on vaccines and other pandemic-related responsibilities.
“The American Rescue Plan smartly recognizes that federal agencies are at the heart of delivering much-needed aid to families, businesses and state and local governments, and federal workers are honored to play such a vital role,” Reardon said.
The new law also ensures workers’ compensation eligibility for federal employees diagnosed with COVID-19 whose duties require contact with others or other risks of exposure to the virus.
And it provides extra assistance to federal employees who themselves are impacted by COVID-19 by giving up to 15 weeks of emergency leave if they are unable to work for reasons related to the pandemic. The paid leave can be used for those who have contracted COVID-19 or are required to quarantine because of possible exposure. It can also be used if their normal child care provider is unavailable for COVID-19-related reasons, or time off for obtaining the vaccine.
The benefit, capped at $1,400 per week, ensures that no employee goes without income while dealing with pandemic-related issues. It expires Sept. 30.
“There have been cases where federal employees who should be staying home, in quarantine, have insisted on coming into work because they don’t have enough personal leave and can’t afford leave without pay. This emergency leave benefit will help them and also protect their coworkers,” Reardon said.
NTEU represents employees in 34 federal agencies and offices.