Workforce

Lawmakers press OPM, CDC for vaccine allocations for federal employees

 Doctor giving patient vaccine. Shutterstock ID 1498605842 by Arturs Budkevics 

A group of House Democrats want vaccines to be allocated directly to federal employees in the National Capital Region. They're asking for the Office of Personnel Management and the Centers for Disease Control to make the inoculation of federal employees a federal process.

D.C., Maryland and Virginia are home to a large concentration of federal workers, many of whom are essential workers, the group wrote in a letter sent on Wednesday to Acting OPM Director, Kathleen McGettigan and Rochelle Walensky, CDC Director.

"That means that Virginia, D.C., and Maryland have a disproportionate number of individuals classified as essential workers by the federal government, yet the responsibility of vaccination falls under these subfederal jurisdictions," the letter reads.

Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Anthony Brown (D-Md.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), David Trone (D-Md.) and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) signed the letter.

The lawmakers pointed to other programs where the federal government "acknowledges when it puts an undue burden on a State or locality," such as a program that offsets property tax revenue losses for local school districts that have tax-exempt federal property in their district.

"Rather than foisting federal employees into Virginia, D.C., or Maryland's supply of vaccines and increasing their essential worker vaccination responsibilities, the federal government should vaccinate federal employees through a separate federalized allocation to get them vaccinated as soon as possible," they wrote.

Some agencies have already received separate allocations of COVID-19 vaccines for their workforces, including the Departments of Defense, State and Veterans Affairs, the Bureau of Prisons and the Indian Health Service. Employees of the Department of Homeland Security are eligible to obtain vaccinations via a collaboration with VA.

Many of the same lawmakers wrote to OPM earlier this month requesting another policy shift to cover the vaccination of feds: the option of administrative time off for vaccination.

That request made it into the $350 billion COVID aid resolution advanced last week by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which included a provision providing additional emergency paid leave for the civilian federal workforce. That resolution is part of the $1.9 trillion package of pandemic relief and recovery funding sought by the Biden administration.

Feds could use that additional leave for receiving the vaccination, although none of the additional time off is available until they've exhausted their other available paid sick leave.

Biden's Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has also encouraged agencies to grant administrative leave for feds to be vaccinated in order "to facilitate expeditious vaccination of the federal workforce."

About the Author

Natalie Alms is a staff writer at FCW covering the federal workforce. She is a recent graduate of Wake Forest University and has written for the Salisbury (N.C.) Post. Connect with Natalie on Twitter at @AlmsNatalie.

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