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Messages for FEC staff

Update on Benefits from OPM (1/24/2019)

OPM has issued an updated fact sheet with information on pay and benefits for employees impacted by the lapse in appropriations.  The fact sheet is attached to this email and available on OPM’s website:   

https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/furlough-guidance/#url=Shutdown-Furlough

We wanted to highlight a few pieces of updated guidance from OPM that may be of particular interest to employees.  First, OPM has updated its guidance on Federal Dental and Vision Insurance Plan (FEDVIP) premiums.  Previous OPM guidance stated that employees would be billed directly by BENEFEDS for their FEDVIP premiums after they missed a second consecutive paycheck.  OPM has negotiated with FEDVIP providers to extend the abeyance period, and employees will not be billed directly for their FEDVIP premiums unless (and until) a third consecutive paycheck is missed. (Please note that Federal Employee Health Benefits coverage is not impacted by the shutdown and employees will not be billed directly for their portion of FEHB premiums.)

Second, OPM and OMB have now authorized agencies to recall human resources staff to process retirement requests and work on insurance issues, including changes to FEHB coverage due to a qualifying life event.  Therefore, our benefits coordinator will be available on an intermittent basis to provide assistance to employees on retirement and insurance issues.  Employees with questions should contact our benefits coordinator directly.

As we mentioned before, we have regular calls with OPM.  If you have any questions that are not answered by the furlough guidance on OPM’s, please let us know and we can address those questions directly with OPM.  We know that the extended government shutdown is causing hardship for many people, so if there is anything we can do to help, please let us know.

OPM fact sheet – pay and benefits information (1/16/2019)

Here is an update from OPM, this fact sheet has some information that may be helpful: https://chcoc.gov/content/fact-sheet-pay-and-benefits-information-employees-affected-lapse-appropriations.

Pay and benefits information for employees affected by the lapse in appropriations (1/11/2019)

OPM has issued a fact sheet with pay and benefits information for employees affected by the lapse in appropriations. Details can be found at the following link: https://chcoc.gov/content/fact-sheet-pay-and-benefits-information-employees-affected-lapse-appropriations

Temporary outside employment (1/11/2019)

As a result of the furlough lasting this long, some of you have expressed an interested in obtaining temporary outside employment. We wanted to remind you of what your furlough notice says about outside employment, and provide a little more information on that subject.

Your furlough notice said:

“You may obtain temporary outside employment during the furlough, but if you do, please be mindful of the following. First, because the ethics rules still apply to you, you may not accept any outside employment that would result in a financial conflict of interest under the ethics laws, or any outside employment that would require you, upon returning to work, to recuse yourself from matters so central or critical to the performance of your official duties that your ability to perform those duties would be materially impaired. 5 C.F.R. § 2635.802. Moreover, because the Commission is closed, agency ethics staff may not be available to advise you on this point during the furlough. Second, as a practical matter, you may be subject to recall to work on short notice (as, for instance, if Congressional action ends the funding lapse during an evening, and the government opens for business the next morning.) You should avoid any commitments of your time that would prevent you from reporting to work when recalled.”

To be clear, ethics staff is unfortunately not available to provide individualized advice or approval regarding outside employment for the duration of the furlough. This may doubly complicate the situation, because under the FEC supplemental ethics regulation at 5 C.F.R. § 4701.102(b) and Commission Directive 73, prior approval is required for certain types of outside employment – and because of the furlough, ethics staff is not available to provide that approval.

Some years ago, the ethics staff prepared a decision tree to help FEC employees apply the supplemental regulation and understand whether they needed to seek prior approval for potential outside employment. You may find it helpful in the current situation. If you can find temporary outside employment during the furlough that does not require preapproval, you are most likely safe from an ethics perspective. However, you should still avoid employment that would keep you from returning to work at the FEC when recalled.

Restoration of annual leave for employees affected by the lapse in appropriations (1/10/2019)

OPM has issued a memorandum regarding the restoration of Annual Leave for employees affected by the lapse in appropriations. Details can be found at the following link. https://chcoc.gov/content/restoration-annual-leave-employees-affected-lapse-appropriations

Payroll news for FEC staff (1/9/2019)

Due to the continued government shutdown, we anticipate that employees will experience a delay in pay if appropriations legislation is not signed soon. Whether retroactive compensation will be paid to furloughed employees is dependent on congressional action, though we remain optimistic that legislation approving back pay will be approved. Given the uncertainties as to when appropriations legislation will be approved, we are currently unable to say when the agency’s next payroll cycle will be processed. However, we will work with the agency’s payroll provider to ensure that pay is processed as quickly as possible once the shutdown ends.

If you are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the shutdown, you may want to consider contacting the employee assistance program (EAP), which offers financial consultation services. You can reach the EAP by phone at 1-800-222-0364. OPM also has information about employee resources on its website www.opm.gov. Additionally, OPM has advised that employees experiencing financial hardship may want to consider contacting their financial institution or credit union, or learn more about their options through the Thrift Savings Plan (www.tsp.gov).

With the understanding that furloughed FEC employees cannot access work email to review previous furlough related documents we have added information below for your reference. Hopefully these OPM links will provide answers to questions you may have regarding unemployment insurance and handling creditors.