Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) today joined House Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Gerry Connolly and Representative Jennifer Wexton (both D-Va.) to introduce the Telework Metrics and Cost Savings Act, a bill to protect and expand federal telework.
“Telework programs save taxpayer money and improve productivity across the federal workforce,” said Congressman Sarbanes, who authored the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 and fought to protect and expand telework programs for America’s civil servants throughout his time in Congress. “As we face a serious public health emergency through the spread of the coronavirus, along with many other 21st-century challenges, we must use every tool at our disposal – especially proven and effective programs, like federal telework – to ensure continuity of operations and effective government service for the American people.”
“In the face of the coronavirus threat, federal agencies are expected to have a robust continuity of operations plan ready for immediate activation should the outbreak threaten to interrupt essential government services. Telework is an essential tool for that response,” said Chairman Connolly. “The Telework Metrics and Cost Savings Act would help expand telework participation in the federal government and reverse many of the current Administration’s mindless attacks on federal telework programs.”
“Our federal workforce performs incredibly important work on behalf of the American people – like caring for our veterans and getting Social Security checks out on time – that can’t be interrupted if an emergency like coronavirus forces these employees to stay home,” said Congresswoman Wexton. “Telework is not only a crucial part of every federal agency’s continuity of operations plan, but has shown to improve employee morale, engagement and retention. Cutting telework availability is one of the ways the Trump Administration has attacked federal workers. Our legislation would reverse senseless restrictions put in place by the administration and protect access to telework options.”
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Federal Continuity Directive 1, “There is a direct relationship between an organization’s COOP plan and telework. Telework can assist the sustainment of essential functions during a change to the normal operating status such as a pandemic.… Telework is a program that can provide critical support to the sustainment of essential functions [and] telework options enhance the organization’s resilience and continuity capacity.”
The Telework Metrics and Cost Savings Act would reinvigorate federal telework programs by:
- Prohibiting agencies from making indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts to telework availability;
- Requiring agencies to notify Congress about and justify any plans to restrict telework;
- Requiring agencies to include annual goals for participation in agency-wide telework policies and report on cost savings from telework; and
- Directing the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to establish uniform guidance for agencies on how to collect information on, set goals for and report cost savings achieved through telework.
The most recent annual report on the status of telework in the federal government found that federal telework is contracting for the first time since the implementation of the Telework Enhancement Act in FY2012. The Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture and the Social Security Administration have all enforced across-the-board cuts to their agency telework programs, with more agencies looking to follow suit.