Shaheen, Hassan Urge Trump to Immediately Maximize Telework for Federal Workers

March 17, 2020

WASHINGTON - Yesterday, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), along with 25 of their colleagues, sent a letter to President Trump urging him to immediately issue an executive order directing federal agencies to utilize telework capabilities to the maximum possible extent. While the administration has issued guidance recommending federal agencies expand their telework capabilities, many federal employees are still required to go to work in-person when they have the capacity to do their job from home. As part of their guidelines to combat and contain the spread of the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health experts are recommending the practice of social distancing. The Senators are calling on the federal government to lead by example and cease all policies that could endanger the health and safety of its employees and exacerbate the spread of this disease.

The Senators write, “I urge you to immediately issue an executive order directing agencies to use telework to the maximum extent practicable in light of the COVID-19 emergency. The Office of Management and Budget issued guidance for agencies to increase telework flexibility in the National Capital Region, but your order should be a clear direction – rather than general guidance – and it should be worldwide in scope.”

They underscore, “Your order should direct federal agencies to allow all telework-eligible federal workers to telework full-time, unless there is a clear and compelling reason not to do so for the effective operation of government. You should also order federal agencies to evaluate whether non-telework-eligible employees can be telework-eligible, and to do so for all employees where there is not a clear and compelling reason that telework is not compatible with the performance of their job functions.”

The Senators close the letter, noting, “Voluntary guidance is not enough – agencies need clear orders. In the absence of a clear order, agencies and managers have been hesitant to take major actions to shift towards telework and I hear from increasingly anxious federal workers in my state on a daily basis.”

The full text of the letter is available here.

Shaheen and Hassan have been sounding the alarm on the need for additional federal funding to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Following calls from Senators Shaheen and Hassan and others in Congress, on Friday President Trump declared a national emergency in response to the spread of Coronavirus. Shaheen and Hassan have called for the Senate to swiftly pass the bipartisan economic coronavirus response legislation that passed the House last Friday. Shaheen and Hassan also supported bipartisan government funding legislation to help states’ response efforts, which was recently signed into law. Last week, the CDC disbursed the $4.9 million funds for New Hampshire included in that funding package.