OPM lifts caps on hazard pay for COVID-19

By Mark Van Scyoc Royalty-free stock photo ID: 285175268 

Government employees who are considered essential frontline workers could receive extra pay during the coronavirus pandemic, according to new guidance from the Office of Personnel Management.

Acting OPM Director Michael Rigas sent a memo on April 14 to agency heads informing them that a recent relief bill lifted limits on how much agencies could pay their employees and waived annual constraints on how much overtime employees could claim.

"The head of an agency [can] waive the premium pay limitation [under Title 5 of the U.S. Code] and apply a higher annual premium pay cap for services performed by an employee during fiscal year 2020 that the head of the agency determines are primarily related to the preparation, prevention, or response to COVID-19," Rigas wrote.

According to OPM, only employees whose agencies receive funding or reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for their premium pay rates are eligible.

Guaranteeing workers extra pay and personal protective equipment during the pandemic has remained a pressing concern.

Last week, a group of Democratic Senators led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced they were drafting legislation that would grant essential workers -- including federal employees ordered to work during the pandemic -- hazard pay that would be on par with a $13 per hour raise.

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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