Workforce

Barr presses states to allow critical feds to go to work

Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Attorney General Bill Barr practice social distancing. (U.S. government photo) 

Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Attorney General Bill Barr practice social distancing. (U.S. government photo)

Attorney General William Barr has issued guidance directing his state counterparts to inform state and local law enforcement of policies in place to ensure that federal employees nationwide can commute and travel on official business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a March 20 memo sent to all U.S. Attorneys, Barr noted that while many states and cities have ordered their citizens to shelter in place, federal employees are free to commute and travel in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisories if they're considered mission-critical personnel.

"Federal agencies will continue to monitor and ensure that [CDC] directives are followed and monitored as the situation develops,” Barr wrote.

"If encountered by local law enforcement during such travel, federal employees shall identify themselves using their Personal Identification Verification cards, and explain the nature of their work and travel," the memo states.

Barr added that state attorneys general should make every effort to ensure that local and state law enforcement officials understand that federal employees must be allowed to travel without prevention even if local authorities enforce travel restrictions.

A number of cities such as Dallas and Philadelphia have enacted shelter-in-place orders that place sharp restrictions on activities permitted in public. Large portions of the U.S. population are being advised not to leave home except to shop for essential goods, to obtain urgent health care or to travel to and from jobs in critical sectors. California became the first to enact a statewide shelter-in-place order on March 19.

Federal agencies have restricted all employee travel to only "mission-critical" activities through May, and U.S. nationals are advised to avoid all international travel.

On March 17, OMB issued guidance advising agencies to minimize face-to-face interaction and promote online service delivery.

About the Author

Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor's degree from Bard College.

Contact Lia at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.


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