After major delay, months of stalemate and subsequent negotiation, Congress has finally come to an agreement and passed a twin set of packages to fund the government and provide coronavirus relief. This package includes a substantial $1.4 trillion boost in federal agency funding through the 2021 fiscal year, along with a $900 billion relief package, which renews unemployment relief, small business aid and delivers direct $600 payments to Americans.
While the federal funding is a sign of progress and relief, Congress did not include all of the requests made by federal employee advocates. Still, civil servants will see a small pay bump in 2021 due to the deal.
Let’s take a look at other important provisions that will affect federal agencies:
First, the struggling United States Postal Service is set to receive part of the financial assistance it has requested. Congress provided a $10 billion cash infusion to USPS. The funding falls short of the $25 billion House Democrats approved earlier this year, but will help USPS from immediate financial crisis.
Customs and Border Protection will be granted $840 million in emergency funding in an effort to offset pandemic related losses it suffered due to lost customs and immigration fees. CBP had considered the possibility of furloughing employees as a result of the revenue loss. This emergency funding intends to prevent that outcome.
Hiring initiatives have also been set into motion in an attempt to reverse the hiring freeze at the State Department. Lawmakers are hoping for it to return to 2016 workforce levels, and have requested bimonthly reports through September 2022 on staffing levels, hiring and attrition across each State component. Agencies that are part of this initiative include the Federal Aviation Administration, the Bureau of Prisons, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The National Labor Relations Board, Environmental Protection Agency, Transportation Security Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, Farm Services Agency and National Weather Service are also facing similar requirements to increase staffing and are required to report to Congress in doing so.
Finally, $8.5 billion went to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in order to facilitate the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. This will include sending vaccine doses to a number of federal agencies for their employees. The Health and Human Services Department will receive a total of $73 billion for pandemic response.
Hiring, funding, relief, reform, and protection are on the horizon for the federal workforce.