Workforce

COVID-19 funding package includes federal building safety and security

Interior Dept  BLM HQ US Gov Photo

The $45.8 billion supplemental request from the Trump administration asks Congress for hundreds of millions of extra dollars for the General Services Administration and Federal Protective Service (FPS) to clean and secure federal buildings and facilities from exposure to coronavirus.

The lion's share of the extra funding, $275 million, would go to GSA for building operations, including additional deep-cleaning actions, enhanced visitor screenings and additional support costs like hand sanitizer, wipes and overtime for employees carrying out the work. The agency would also get an additional $200 million to support "additional unforeseen circumstances necessary to support government-wide space or space management requires … for COVID-19."

Additionally, the administration is asking for the legal authority to extend leases for buildings used to respond to the crisis beyond six months, with congressional notification, and exempt those buildings from requirements in the National Environmental Policy Act.

Meanwhile, FPS would get a much smaller amount -- $3 million -- to pay for a six-month supply of personal protective equipment to respond to the virus. Virtually all of the agency's budget comes from fees collected from other tenant agencies that use GSA-owned or leased buildings. In 2018, FPS developed a new fee model to more closely align its funding with resource needs. The agency has historically dealt with cash-flow problems that have led to millions of dollars in late or delayed payments to contractors.

The requests underscore how agencies responsible for managing and protecting federal buildings and facilities are not adequately funded, supplied or staffed to handle a widespread outbreak of easily communicable diseases. Results from a study put out this week by the National Institutes of Health, Princeton University and the University of California Los Angeles found that COVID-19 can remain stable for hours or even days in the air and on many surfaces. For example, the virus can survive for up to four hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard as long as two to three days on plastics and stainless steel.

The study found that "healthcare settings are also vulnerable to the introduction and spread of [the virus] and the stability … in aerosols and on surfaces likely contributes to transmission of the virus in healthcare settings." Not surprisingly, the recommended response involves rigorous cleaning and disinfecting of objects and surfaces that are frequently touched.

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a former senior staff writer at FCW.

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