Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA) announced the inclusion of key Virginia priorities in the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2024 draft funding bills. All 12 bills were passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on a bipartisan basis.

“We are proud to announce that the Senate’s draft government spending legislation for Fiscal Year 2024 includes critical funding that will keep the government open, back record investments in infrastructure and U.S. competitiveness, uplift rural and underserved communities, support servicemembers and military families, provide assistance to miners suffering from black lung disease, and support key industries that are central to Virginia’s economy. We’re also proud to have secured more than $111 million for specific community projects all throughout Virginia as we work to ensure our federal budget meets Virginians’ needs. We hope that our colleagues in the House of Representatives will negotiate in good faith in order to reach a compromise on a final deal that includes funding for these important priorities,” said Sens. Warner and Kaine.

As part of the Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations process, members of Congress were able to work with the communities they represent to request funding for local community projects, otherwise known as earmarks, in a manner that promotes transparency and accountability. This process allows Congress to dedicate federal funding for specific projects in Virginia. The Senators worked to secure more than $111 million for community projects across the Commonwealth. In addition to battling for these priorities, the Senators will work to ensure funds obtained by Virginia House members also remain in the final spending bills. 

More information regarding specific projects in Virginia that will receive Congressionally Directed Spending is available below:

  • For projects in Northern Virginia, click here.
  • For projects in Central Virginia, click here.
  • For projects in the Shenandoah Valley, click here.
  • For projects in Southwest Virginia and Southside, click here.
  • For projects in Hampton Roads, click here.
  • For projects that impact communities in multiple regions across the Commonwealth click here.

 
The following list includes many provisions championed by Sens. Warner and Kaine on behalf of Virginia that were included in the 12 government funding bills: 

Boosting Local Economies: Includes $200 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission and $20 million for the Southeast Crescent Regional Commission to support their work to build economic partnerships, create opportunity, and foster economic development.  

Implementing the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022: Includes $11 billion to implement the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, championed by Sens. Warner and Kaine. Funding will allow the U.S. to keep pace with China and other competitors in scientific fields that can power the economy, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, microelectronics, clean energy, and advanced communications. Sen. Warner first introduced the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act in June 2020 along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).  

Implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA): Provides full funding for numerous transportation programs authorized in the IIJA, including $29.5 billion for the National Highway Performance Program, $3.1 billion for the Highway Safety Improvement Program, $245 million for the Rail-Highway Grade Crossings Program, $14.3 billion for the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, and $2.4 billion for the Bridge Investment Program. Sen. Warner was a lead author and negotiator of the IIJA.  

Strengthening Transportation and Recreation Infrastructure: Provides $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and $45 million for the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program, which supports multi-purpose trails. 

Making Our Communities Safer: Provides $732 million – a $32 million increase from Fiscal Year 2023 – for Violence Against Women Prevention and Prosecution programs to prevent violence and better support survivors. This legislation also includes over $534 million for Community Oriented Policing Services to support state and local law enforcement and communities in developing comprehensive, evidence-based violence intervention and prevention programs based on partnerships between community residents, law enforcement, local government agencies, and other community stakeholders. This includes efforts to address gang and gun violence and improve school safety.

Support for Missing Persons Program: Includes $1 million to help with the nationwide implementation of the Ashanti Alert system. In 2018, Sen. Warner secured unanimous Senate passage of the Ashanti Alert Act, legislation that created a new federal alert system for missing or endangered adults between the ages of 18-64. The bill was signed into law on December 31, 2018. 

Investing in Children: Provides $8.7 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which provides financial assistance to help low-income families access child care. This is $700 million more than Fiscal Year 2023. The bill also includes $12.3 billion, $300 million more than Fiscal Year 2023, for Head Start, the national school readiness program. In July, Sens. Warner and Kaine urged the White House to provide additional funding to help stabilize the child care industry. In April, Sen. Kaine introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act, legislation that would help ensure families can find and afford child care by expanding access to more high-quality options, stabilizing the child care sector, and helping ensure child care workers taking care of our nation’s kids are paid livable wages. The bill also includes $15 million for the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health program – a program that Sen. Kaine reauthorized via bipartisan legislation.  

Making Higher Education More Affordable: Provides a $250 boost to the maximum Pell Grant in the 2024-2025 school year, raising the maximum award to $7,645. The bill also includes over $1 billion, an increase of $5 million, for programs to strengthen Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions.

Supporting K-12 Education: Provides over $18.5 billion for Title I-A grants, which supports school districts with low-income students. This is $175 million more from Fiscal Year 2023. The bill also provides over $5 billion for the primary Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Special Education State grant program, an increase of $175 million from Fiscal Year 2023. In July, Sen. Kaine reintroduced the IDEA Full Funding Act, legislation that would ensure Congress fulfills its commitment to fully fund IDEA through regular, mandatory increases in spending.

Investing in Affordable Housing: Includes $1.5 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which provides fundingto state and local governments for housing construction, and $3.3 billion in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which can be used to support affordable housing, community development, and economic development. Also includes $3.9 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants (HAG), to help families and individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Sens. Warner and Kaine are strong advocates for affordable housing funding each year.

Supporting Nutrition Programs: The bill includes $6.3 billion – a $615 million increase from Fiscal Year 2023 – for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to ensure over 6 million women, infants, and children can access adequate nutrition. It also fully funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to serve an estimated 42 million people per month – with no new restrictions on eligibility – and fully funds the Child Nutrition Programs to help serve an estimated 5 billion lunches and 2.6 billion breakfasts to kids across the country. 

Fighting Global Hunger: Provides $1.8 billion for the Food for Peace program and $248.3 million for the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program, while the State and Foreign Operations bill provides a $691 million increase in funding for humanitarian assistance programs, including increased investments in addressing global hunger and enhancing food security.  

Preventing and Treating Substance Use: Provides $5 billion – an increase of $125 million over Fiscal Year 2023 – for opioid treatment and prevention. This includes $40 million for the Substance Use Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Services Block Grant; $20 million for the State Opioid Response grants; $10 million for the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program; and $20 million for NIH opioid research programs. 

Fighting the Flow of Fentanyl: Includes $719 million to improve the detection and seizure of fentanyl and other narcotics at ports of entry with new technology and personnel. Invests $105 million in new resources to disrupt transnational criminal organizations and stop fentanyl and illicit drugs at their source. Sens. Warner and Kaine are both cosponsors of the Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act, a sanctions and anti-money laundering bill targeting the illicit fentanyl supply chain. Earlier this year, Sens. Kaine and Joni Ernst (R-IA) led bipartisan legislation to direct increased federal attention to fentanyl trafficking by utilizing the tools of the Department of Defense and involving Mexico as an active partner to combat the fentanyl crisis. That legislation was included in the Senate-passed National Defense Authorization Act.

Addressing Long COVID Needs: Includes $10 million for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to support access to comprehensive, coordinated, and person-centered care, particularly for underserved, rural, vulnerable, or minority populations that are disproportionately impacted by the effects of Long COVID. Also includes $5 million for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to establish a network of Long COVID Centers of Excellence that can gather, develop and disseminate data regarding evidence-based treatment; educate and train providers on best practices; conduct outreach to affected populations and community organizations; and coordinate access to care. Sen. Kaine has been a strong advocate for helping individuals with Long COVID, including by leading the bipartisan Long COVID Support Act with Sen. Todd Young (R-IN).

Supporting Rural Health: Includes a $12 million increase for Rural Health programs. This includes a $10 million increase in the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program and a $2 million increase for the Rural Health Outreach program, which supports projects that demonstrate new and innovative modes of outreach in rural areas. Also includes $5 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish an Office of Rural Health. Sen. Kaine supported the establishment of this office as a cosponsor of the Rural Health Equity Act, and led a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee in FY23 requesting this funding.

Addressing the Maternal Mortality Crisis: Includes an increase of $10 million for the Implementing a Maternal health and Pregnancy Outcomes Vision for Everyone (IMPROVE) Initiative to combat alarming rates of maternal mortality, as well as an increase of $2.5 million for programs to improve health outcomes during and after pregnancy and reduce disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes. Also includes $110.5 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions Safe Motherhood and Infant Health programs, which is a $2,500,000 increase from fiscal year 2023 and more than $1.7 billion for the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which is a $10,000,000 increase from fiscal year 2023. Sen. Kaine led a bipartisan letter to the Appropriations Committee asking for robust funding for these programs.

Pandemic Preparedness: Includes $3.67 billion for the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR). This includes a $20 million increase for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to support the advanced development of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and devices for potential serious public health threats, and $75 million to establish a new program in manufacturing and production to ensure that critical resources including medical countermeasures and ancillary supplies are manufactured in the United States. 

Increasing Funding for Pediatric Research: Provides $12.6 million to further fund the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act—legislation championed by Sens. Warner and Kaine and named after a child from Loudoun County who died from a brain tumor in 2013. 

Supporting the Refugee Resettlement Program: Includes $133 million for refugee settlement to meet the goal of 125,000 refugee admissions for Fiscal Year 2024. 

Expanding Home Energy Assistance: Includes $4.075 billion – an increase of $75 million from Fiscal Year 2023 – for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides assistance to low-income households to help heat or cool their homes. Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for lowering energy costs and have consistently advocated for robust funding for LIHEAP. 

Expanding High-Speed Internet Access: Includes $98 million for the USDA’s ReConnect Program to expand access to high-speed broadband to remote underserved areas. Sens. Warner and Kaine have been vocal advocates for expanding broadband. As Governors and Senators, Sens. Warner and Kaine have long supported expanding broadband access in Virginia. During the pandemic, they secured significant funding for broadband through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Sens. Warner and Kaine also joined a bipartisan letter to Senate leadership requesting this funding earlier this year, and Sen. Warner personally secured billions of dollars for broadband expansion in both the American Rescue Plan and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 

Increasing Military Pay and Compensation: Fully funds the 5.2 percent pay raise for servicemembers, while providing $29.6 billion for housing and $8.4 billion for subsistence – including BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) and BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence—food for servicemembers not living in government quarters).

Economic Support for Underserved Communities: Provides $341 million for the U.S. Department of the Treasury Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund. Sens. Warner and Kaine requested this funding. Sen. Warner has led efforts in Congress to support CDFIs through legislation including the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act and the creation of the bipartisan Senate Community Development Finance Caucus.  

Small Businesses: Provides $1.2 billion to the Small Business Administration to help small businesses thrive. This funding will support SBA’s lending programs, which increase access to capital for small businesses, as well as their entrepreneurial development programs, which include services that help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, such as the Small Business Development Center and Women’s Business Centers networks.

Addressing Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Delays and Customer Service Issues: Includes $12.3 billion for the IRS, which will enable it to continue to update ancient computer systems, improve customer service, and reduce wait times for refunds and other services. Sens. Warner and Kaine have consistently pushed the IRS to address poor customer service and severe delays within the department.  

Support for Miners: Includes $12.19 million for Black Lung Clinics. Sens. Warner and Kaine have actively worked to secure benefits for miners and their families suffering from black lung disease. In July, Sens. Warner and Kaine reintroduced the Relief for Survivors of Miners Act, which would ease restrictions to make it easier for miners’ survivors to successfully claim benefits. In June, the Senators also urged the Biden Administration to issue new silica standards to protect miners across America – a push that helped contribute towards the release of those standards.

Restoring the Chesapeake Bay: Includes $93 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program, the primary federal program that coordinates Chesapeake Bay restoration and protection efforts throughout the Bay watershed.

Strengthening Our Ports: Provides $1.2 billion for the Maritime Administration (MARAD), including $213 million for the Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP), which supports the buildout and modernization of our nation’s ports including the Port of Virginia.

Advancing Scientific Discovery: Includes $8.43 billion – an increase of $330 million from Fiscal Year 2023 – for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science. DOE’s Office of Science sponsors basic research in the physical sciences and supports 22,000 researchers at 17 national laboratories across the country, including Jefferson Lab in Newport News, Virginia.

Protecting our Courts: Provides $11.4 million to improve security of the Walter E. Hoffman Courthouse in Norfolk, Virginia. Sen. Kaine visited the Hoffman Courthouse in 2020 to observe the serious security vulnerabilities firsthand and the Senators have been fighting to enhance its security ever since. The Senators last wrote to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) in January 2023 to push for the long delayed security measures.

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WASHINGTON – Today, Virginia’s Governor Glenn Youngkin, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, and U.S. Representatives Bobby Scott, Rob Wittman, Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer, Abigail Spanberger, Jennifer Wexton, Jen Kiggans, and Jennifer McClellan issued the following statement after Virginia leaders presented to the General Services Administration (GSA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) the clear case for Springfield to host the FBI’s new headquarters:

"The selection process for a new FBI headquarters should be a straightforward assessment of five criteria identified by the experts at the FBI and the GSA. In today’s meeting, Virginia made the case that in all five criteria, Springfield, Virginia is the leading site under consideration. With its proximity to FBI Quantico and other key intelligence sites, it’s the optimal location to support the FBI mission. It has more public transportation options than any other site under consideration, as well as superior site development flexibility. Choosing Springfield would also represent a strong commitment to advancing equity in underserved communities. It would give taxpayers the best bang for the buck since it’s already federally-owned and built-ready. Springfield is a home run in every category.”

Last month, Youngkin, Warner, Kaine, Connolly, Beyer, and Spanberger held a press conference alongside local leaders in Springfield to highlight the ways in which it best meets the five selection criteria set forth by the GSA and FBI, which are: support for the FBI mission requirement; transportation access; site development flexibility; promoting sustainable siting and advancing equity; and cost. The press conference followed the submission of a letter by Virginia’s congressional delegation and Governor Youngkin to the GSA and FBI laying out the case for the Springfield site.

For high quality video of Warner and Kaine making the case for Springfield following today’s presentation, click here.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) reintroduced legislation to protect federal workers and their families from foreclosures, evictions, and loan defaults during a government shutdown or debt default. The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act would enable government employees and contractors to postpone payment obligations during a shutdown or debt default and for 30 days afterward.

“During the government shutdown under President Trump, we spent lots of time with government employees who often broke down crying because they didn’t know how they were going to put food on the table or keep a roof over their family’s heads,” said the Senators. “Some people in Congress treat government shutdowns or the threat of a debt default like political games, but to federal workers and their families, the consequences can be grim and all too real. This legislation will help shield federal employees and their families from those in Congress who think it’s good politics to stop paying our bills by shutting down the government or defaulting on our debt.”

During the December 2018 government shutdown, many federal workers received a pay stub with zero dollars on it. This bill addresses the real threat of federal workers and contractors losing their homes, falling behind on student loans and other bills, having their car repossessed, or losing their health insurance because they have been furloughed during a shutdown or required to work without pay. The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act would protect impacted workers from:

  • Being evicted or foreclosed;
  • Having their car or other property repossessed;
  • Falling behind in their student loan payments;
  • Having negative effects on their credit history;
  • Falling behind in paying their bills; or
  • Losing their insurance because of missed premiums.

This protection would last during a shutdown and debt default and 30 days afterwards to give workers a chance to keep up with their bills and would enable these workers to apply to a court to temporarily postpone payment obligations or eviction or foreclosure actions.

During the longest government shutdown in U.S. history in 2019, Sens. Warner and Kaine took a series of actions to protect affected workers, including guaranteeing back pay for federal employees, urging back pay for contractors, introducing budget amendments to protect federal workers, and urging OPM to prevent the termination of dental and vision insurance for federal employees. During the shutdown, Sen. Kaine objected to the Senate going out of session, which resulted in him securing passage of legislation to guarantee back pay for federal employees. He has also introduced legislation that would end Congress’ abuse of the debt ceiling and prevent a debt default by allowing the President to raise the debt ceiling subject to a congressional override.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the Federal Employee Civil Relief Act is sponsored by U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

This legislation is supported by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), Federal Managers Association (FMA), International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), and National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU).

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WASHINGTON—U.S. Sens. Mark R Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee today sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy urging the House of Representatives to immediately pass and send to the President’s desk—before adjourning this week—the Warner-Hagerty bipartisan legislation providing emergency security resources to protect the U.S. Supreme Court, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent yesterday.

“There is no question that the Supreme Court, its justices, their families, and court employees are under unprecedented threat, as evidenced by recent highly publicized threats against Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Sotomayor. These threats may very well become more acute in the coming weeks, as the Court concludes its term. There is no question that protecting the Court from these threats requires additional, unexpected resources in Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22),” the senators wrote.

The Supreme Court Security Funding Act of 2022, which the senators introduced last week, provides an additional $10.3 million to the U.S. Marshals Service and $9.1 million to the U.S. Supreme Court to cover unexpected, increased security costs for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22). If the funding is not immediately provided, the Court and Marshals Service will be forced to transfer funds from other critical functions and entities.

“Last week, Congress passed—and the President signed into law—important legislation by Senators Cornyn and Coons to increase the scope of authorized Supreme Court Police protection to include the justices’ immediate family members. There should be no question regarding whether Congress will similarly provide the resources necessary to protect the Supreme Court during this hour of need. We look forward to the House swiftly passing this legislation so that it can be enacted into law before the Supreme Court concludes its term in the next couple of weeks,” the senators concluded.

A copy of the letter can be found below.

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy,

Yesterday, the Senate passed by unanimous consent the Supreme Court Security Funding Act of 2022, which we introduced last week.  This bipartisan legislation provides emergency security resources to protect the Supreme Court of the United States.  We strongly urge the House of Representatives to immediately pass H.R. 4346, as amended by the Senate, before adjourning this week, so that this time-sensitive legislation is sent directly to the President’s desk. 

The need for and urgency of this security funding is plain.  There is no question that the Supreme Court, its justices, their families, and court employees are under unprecedented threat, as evidenced by recent highly publicized threats against Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Sotomayor.  These threats may very well become more acute in the coming weeks, as the Court concludes its term. There is no question that protecting the Court from these threats requires additional, unexpected resources in Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22).  This legislation provides those necessary resources. 

More specifically, the U.S. Marshals Service has been providing around-the-clock security for the nine Justices at their homes and needs $10.3 million in additional funding to cover these costs for the remainder of FY22.  The Supreme Court needs $9.1 million to cover its increased security costs for FY22, from overtime pay for Supreme Court Police officers to mutual-aid payments to assisting law enforcement agencies and increased physical security around the Supreme Court Building.

If Congress does not immediately provide this funding, the Court and Marshals Service will have to transfer funds from other critical functions and entities, like the U.S. District Courts and U.S. Courts of Appeals.

Last week, Congress passed—and the President signed into law—important legislation by Senators Cornyn and Coons to increase the scope of authorized Supreme Court Police protection to include the justices’ immediate family members.  There should be no question regarding whether Congress will similarly provide the resources necessary to protect the Supreme Court during this hour of need. 

We look forward to the House swiftly passing this legislation so that it can be enacted into law before the Supreme Court concludes its term in the next couple of weeks. 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON—U.S.  Sens. Mark R. Warner, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee secured passage of their bipartisan legislation that provides an additional $10.3 million to the U.S. Marshals Service and $9.1 million to the U.S. Supreme Court to address the unprecedented, current security threats to the justices, their families, and court employees. 

The legislation passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

 “This money will go to paying officers’ overtime, purchasing physical security measures, and covering other much-needed security costs to protect the Court,” said Sen. Warner. “I am glad to work with Senator Hagerty on this important effort.”

“I appreciate the partnership of Senator Warner in this important effort to provide much-needed resources to protect one of our three branches of government that is facing unprecedented threats,” said Sen. Hagerty. “It is regretful that this emergency funding is needed, but I commend the Senate for providing these resources. It is imperative that the House of Representatives follow suit as quickly as possible.”

The U.S. Marshals Service continues to provide around-the-clock security for the nine Justices at their homes and has requested additional funding for costs that have been and will be incurred to provide this protection for the rest of Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22). Similarly, the Supreme Court requested additional resources to cover its unexpected, increased security costs. 

Hagerty and Warner used a House-passed legislative vehicle—H.R. 4346, which sought to make appropriations for the Legislative Branch for FY22 but was rendered moot by the FY2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act—and substituted the text of their bill. By using this vehicle, Hagerty and Warner avoid a potential blue-slip issue in the House of Representatives and allow the House to immediately pass this bill.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) applauded the Senate passage of their Air America Act of 2021. The legislation, first introduced by Warner and Rubio in July 2020, would provide Air America employees with the federal retirement credit they earned.

“I’m very pleased to know that Air Americans are one step closer to receiving the retirement benefits and recognition they deserve for their courage during the U.S. war effort in Vietnam and Southeast Asia,” Sen. Warner said. “These individuals courageously supported troops, rescued downed American pilots and sustained casualties in the line of duty. Passing this bill is the least we can do to honor their service to our country."

“The brave men and women employed by Air America who conducted operations during the Cold War, Korean War, and Vietnam War were critical to U.S. efforts,” Sen. Rubio said. “I’m pleased that this bill has passed the Senate, and I hope the House will swiftly do the same, so that these Americans can receive the long-overdue honor and recognition they deserve.”

Air America was a wholly government-owned and operated corporation that conducted operations during the Cold War, Korean War, and Vietnam War. Their employees worked under the direct policy guidance of the White House, Department of Defense, and the Department of State while under the management of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Air America employed several hundred U.S. citizens, mainly flight crew members, and approximately 286 were killed in the line of duty while conducting covert operations in designated war zones. The last helicopter mission that rescued personnel from the rooftops in Saigon in 1975 was planned and executed by Air America and the United States Marine Corps. 

Since 2009, the declassification of CIA Agency documents confirmed that Air Americans were employees of the U.S. Government at the time of their service and entitled to federal retirement credit based on the circumstances of their employment. Congress has maintained its interest in resolving the retirement situation of Air American employees for more than 15 years. During this process, the Office of Personnel Management, the Merit Systems Protection Board, the CIA and the Director of National Intelligence have all concluded that congressional action is required.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) reintroduced the Air America Act of 2021, bipartisan and bicameral legislation that would provide Air America employees federal retirement credit they earned. The legislation, first introduced by Warner and Rubio in July 2020, is identical to an amendment that Sen. Rubio filed to the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, and continues the Senator’s support for these Americans.

“I am proud to cosponsor this bill with Senator Rubio that will provide long-overdue recognition and retirement benefits to the brave men and women who flew for Air America,” Warner said. “Air Americans were instrumental to the U.S. war effort in Vietnam and Southeast Asia, courageously supporting troops, rescuing downed American pilots and sustaining casualties in the service of their country. Air America was on call until the very end of the war, including flying the last helicopters out of Saigon where they evacuated Vietnamese civilians and the U.S. Embassy. It is time they be honored with the recognition they deserve, and the grateful thanks of a nation.”

“The brave men and women employed by Air America who conducted operations during the Cold War, Korean War, and Vietnam War were critical to U.S. efforts,” Rubio said. “I’m proud to partner with Senator Warner, and our colleagues, to ensure that these Americans receive the long-overdue honor and recognition they deserve.”

Joining Warner and Rubio as cosponsors of the legislation are Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mike Braun (R-IN), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tina Smith (D-NM), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Alex Padilla (D-CA).

Representative Glenn Grothman (R-WI), and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

Background: Air America was a wholly government-owned and operated corporation that conducted operations during the Cold War, Korean War, and Vietnam War. Their employees worked under the direct policy guidance of the White House, Department of Defense, and the Department of State while under the management of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Air America employed several hundred U.S. citizens, mainly flight crew members, and approximately 286 were killed in the line of duty while conducting covert operations in designated war zones. The last helicopter mission that rescued personnel from the rooftops in Saigon in 1975 was planned and executed by Air America and the United States Marine Corps.

Since 2009, the declassification of CIA Agency documents confirmed that Air Americans were employees of the U.S. Government at the time of their service and entitled to federal retirement credit based on the circumstances of their employment. Congress has maintained its interest in resolving the retirement situation of Air American employees for more than 15 years. During this process, the Office of Personnel Management, the Merit Systems Protection Board, the CIA and the Director of National Intelligence have all concluded that congressional action is required.

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WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and 26 of their Senate colleagues  in requesting additional resources to support the mental health of employees working in the U.S. Capitol complex. Following the insurrection on January 6, 2021, demand for existing mental health programs has surged, leaving many workers in the Capitol complex, including janitorial staff and members of the press, without additional resources to help them cope with any trauma they may have experienced related to the attack on the Capitol.

In their letter, the senators urge Architect of the Capitol James Brett Blanton, Senate Acting Sergeant at Arms Jennifer Hemingway, Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden, and the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) Acting Chief of Police Yogananda Pittman to work with them and the relevant House and Senate committees to expand the emotional and behavioral health services and resources available to congressional staff; janitorial and food service workers; members of the press corps; and Capitol Police.  

“As we work toward accountability and governing after the attack, Congress must ensure that support services, including emotional and behavioral health services, and resources are available to and appropriate for all who work in the Capitol to help promote healing,” wrote Bennet and the senators. 

They continued: “We thank [the Senate Employee Assistance Program] and [the House of Representatives Office of Employee Assistance] for responding to this crisis by rapidly scaling up their services and working relentlessly to ensure that Senate and House staff is aware of and understands the resources available to them. Nonetheless, needs are increasing, especially among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and we should expand these services to include all Capitol personnel, including contract workers and their families, who may be affected and need help. This would warrant further investment in the services and resources these offices provide.”

Following the attack on the Capitol, members of the Senate and House of Representatives returned to their respective chambers to finish certifying the results of the Electoral College. Janitorial crews also immediately returned to their duties to clean up the damage and vandalism. A member of the USCP, Brian Sicknick, died the day after the attack due to injuries sustained in the riot, and two other police officers have tragically died by suicide in the weeks following the attack. Additionally, congressional staff associations have raised concerns and are asking for answers and increased support services for themselves and other workers, highlighting the racial motivations behind the attack.

In addition to Warner, Bennet, Luján, and Klobuchar, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

The text of the letter is available HERE and below.

 

Dear Mr. Blanton, Ms. Hemingway, Dr. Hayden, and Chief Pittman:

We write to thank you for the work you have done following the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, and strongly urge you to provide additional support and resources to the Senate Employee Assistance Program (EAP), the House of Representatives Office of Employee Assistance (OEA), and other efforts to help the broader Capitol community cope with the attack. We additionally express our concerns regarding the procedures and policies in place to protect and support Members of Congress, their staff, and other essential workers, like contract staff, members of the press corps, and the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) in the United States Capitol both during and after the traumatic event.

On January 6, 2021, the Capitol was overwhelmed by violent insurrectionists while the Senate and House were in session. We are grateful for the heroic actions taken by U.S. Capitol staff, including the USCP, congressional and non-congressional staff, and other supporting entities like the Secret Service, D.C. Metropolitan Police, and the soldiers of the National Guard. Many put themselves in harm’s way to protect us, our colleagues, and our staff. Following the attacks, non-congressional workers like contract janitorial staff had to return to work to clean up the disturbing aftermath of the incident. As we work toward accountability and governing after the attack, Congress must ensure that support services, including emotional and behavioral health services, and resources are available to and appropriate for all who work in the Capitol to help promote healing. 

The United States Senate and the House of Representatives, through the EAP and OEA, respectively, assist Members, congressional staff, USCP, and their family members for personal and work-related problems, including emotional and behavioral support services. We thank EAP and OEA for responding to this crisis by rapidly scaling up their services and working relentlessly to ensure that Senate and House staff is aware of and understands the resources available to them. Nonetheless, needs are increasing, especially among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and we should expand these services to include all Capitol personnel, including contract workers and their families, who may be affected and need help. This would warrant further investment in the services and resources these offices provide. 

Many of the Capitol’s essential workers and support staff are contract employees and many do not currently have access to support services through EAP. In some cases, access to these vital programs is tied to Title V, Sec. 2107, which does not classify contract workers as “congressional employees”. This stipulation is not mandatory and we would ask you to ensure that all workers in the U.S. Capitol, regardless of class or classification, and their families have access to these services, especially trauma counseling.

As Members of Congress, we strongly urge you to work with us, the Senate Rules Committee, the House Administration Committee, and the Senate and House Appropriations Committees to expand the services and resources you provide. This should include ensuring the following:

  • Better information and protection for all U.S. Capitol workers in the event of future emergencies, including training, emergency planning, and coordination procedures;
  • Sufficient staff and funding to respond to current and projected needs;
  • Resources necessary to help non-congressional employees who may be affected such as members of the press-corps, food service contractors, military liaisons, and other contractors;
  • Enhanced mental, emotional, and behavioral health resources, including crisis services, for USCP officers to address and cope with trauma;
  • Availability of culturally competent services and resources for all employees, including those for whom English is a second language; and
  • Additional reforms to make the OEA and EAP more accessible and available to all employees, contractors, support staff and their families.

Capitol workers and journalists investigate and ensure the health of the U.S. Capitol, the very heart of our democracy. Everyone must feel safe, supported and protected while fulfilling their duty within the halls of the United States Congress.  

Sincerely, 

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded Senate passage of the bipartisan, bicameral spending bill to fund federal programs crucial to Virginia and keep the federal government open through 2021. The legislation also includes comprehensive measures to help Americans amid the ongoing economic and public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Following today’s Senate passage, the bill now heads to the President’s desk for signature. 

“For nine long months, folks waited for Congress to deliver critical relief as they watched COVID-19 further devastate their communities. Today, despite that unacceptable delay, relief is officially on its way,” said Warner. “I’m proud to have worked with a bipartisan group of colleagues to help get this legislation into shape and in the hands of House and Senate leaders. And while I know that this bill is not perfect, I’m glad to know that it will help American families weather this winter and get through the holidays.”

“While this relief should have been passed much earlier, I’m pleased to see families, small businesses, hospitals, schools, and more get the assistance they need,” Kaine said. “This legislation makes critical investments in unemployment assistance, food aid, housing assistance, and other areas to directly help those struggling amid the pandemic. Though we still have more work to do to help Americans get back on their feet, I’m relieved Congress was able to come to this bipartisan compromise and fund these priorities before the holidays.” 

The following list includes some of the priorities Warner and Kaine advocated:

  • Assistance for out of work Virginians: Extends federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, preventing hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Virginians from losing benefits over the holidays. The senators were cosponsors of the legislation that provided the model for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), through which more than 9 million Americans are currently receiving benefits. More recently, the Senators called on leadership to extend and add additional weeks of federal employment benefits to both PUA and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs. Additionally, it gives states the option to offer additional weekly financial relief for Americans with a mix of traditional (W-2) and independent employment income who are not able to claim their full benefit, modeled after Senator Warner’s legislation.
  • Stimulus checks: Includes a stimulus payment for low- and middle-income Americans; with $600 for individual filers and $1,200 for joint filers, with an additional $600 for each qualifying child in the household. Early in the crisis, Senator Kaine called for stimulus efforts to include direct payments to households. 
  • Vaccines: Includes over $19 billion for vaccines and therapeutics and an additional $8.75 billion to support vaccine distribution, particularly for states and localities, to slow the spread of the pandemic and take a step towards a future where COVID-19 is managed.
  • Emergency housing aid and protections: Creates a new $25 billion emergency rental assistance fund to prevent evictions during the pandemic, which will be delivered through state and local governments. Earlier this year, the Senators joined their colleagues in introducing legislation to provide emergency housing assistance for those facing potential evictions. The bill will also extend the CDC eviction moratorium to allow time for implementing the emergency housing aid.
  • Relief for hard-hit small businesses and nonprofits: Provides targeted relief for small businesses struggling with the effects of the pandemic. This includes a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans for small businesses and nonprofits that experienced a substantial revenue decline in 2020, as well as other funds for small business relief. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is directed to provide guidance to ensure priority access for underserved communities, such as minority-owned businesses. The bill also includes grants for small businesses and nonprofits in sectors likely to continue to see substantial drops in revenue in 2021, particularly in the live entertainment sector. This aid will ensure that Virginia’s small businesses are able to stay afloat during the pandemic, keep workers on payroll, and return to job creation as COVID-19 is controlled. The Senators have been strong supporters of providing relief to small businesses, cosponsoring the Heroes Small Business Lifeline Act, which included many of the provisions in the final bill, and the Save our Stages Act, on which the live entertainment grants are modeled. 
  • Targeted relief for underserved communities: Provides the largest single investment in our country's history for minority-owned and community-based lending institutions. Largely drawn from Senator Warner’s Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act, the provision provides $12 billion to community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs) to build capital and unlock affordable access to credit for underserved and minority neighborhoods, which have been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19.
  • Education Stabilization Fund: Provides $82 billion to provide emergency support to K-12 schools and higher education institutions. The legislation includes provisions of Kaine’s Coronavirus Relief Flexibility for Students and Institutions Act that allow colleges to use emergency stabilization funds to cover lost revenue and better target funds designated for colleges hardest hit by COVID-19 by requiring an application to demonstrate need. 
  • Broadband: Includes $7 billion towards broadband, including $3.2 billion for an Emergency Broadband Benefit to help low-income families maintain their internet connections, $285 million to support broadband access in minority communities, and $300 million in broadband grants modeled on provisions Senator Warner drafted with bipartisan Senators. Additionally, the bill includes an extension of the deadline to use Coronavirus Relief Funds so that state and localities interested in using the money for broadband expansion have more time, as Senator Warner called for.
  • Support for child care providers and families: Includes $10 billion in flexible funding for the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to help support child care providers and ensure that working parents have access to child care during the pandemic. The bill also includes $250 million for Head Start programs.
  • Public health data modernization: Includes Senator Kaine’s Saving Lives Through Better Data Act, which will improve the nation’s public health data systems at CDC and through grants to state and local health departments to expand and modernize their systems, promoting more seamless communication, which can save lives when we’re faced with public health threats such as COVID-19. The omnibus authorizes $100 million for each of fiscal years 2021 through 2025.
  • Telehealth: Includes Senator Kaine and Senator Schatz’s Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act of 2019, which creates a grant program to evaluate, develop, and expand the use of distance health education models such as ECHO to increase access to specialty care in rural and medically underserved populations. The omnibus authorizes $10 million for each of fiscal years 2022 through 2026. The funding bill also permanently expands coverage of and payment for telehealth to treat mental health care, which is in line with Senator Warner’s CONNECT for Health Act, which Senator Kaine is a cosponsor.
  • Ends surprise billing: Includes a provision to end surprise billing, something Senators Warner and Kaine have long advocated for. 
  • U.S. Postal Service: Converts the CARES Act $10 billion loan into direct funding for USPS without requiring repayment. These funds will be used for operational costs and other expenses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Warner is a cosponsor of the Postal Service Emergency Assistance Act, which would provide USPS with significant direct funding. 
  • Veterans: Provides $104.4 billion in funding for the VA, an increase of $12.5 billion over FY20 levels. This funding increase provides $2.7 billion more than the previous fiscal year for health care delivered at VA facilities nationwide. The bill provides robust funding in several areas important for Virginia veterans, including $815 million for critical VA Medical and Prosthetic research, an increase of $1.18 billion over FY20 levels for electronic health record modernization, nearly $2 billon in support of programs to prevent veteran homelessness and $312.6 million for suicide prevention.
  • Infrastructure: Includes funding for key projects that were championed by Warner and Kaine to benefit Virginia’s infrastructure:
    • Includes a provision pushed for by Senators Warner and Kaine to allow for the construction of a new Long Bridge on the Potomac River, which will double the capacity of the rail crossing between Virginia and D.C. The current two-track Long Bridge is the only rail bridge connecting Virginia to Washington, D.C., and it is at 98 percent capacity during peak hours, which means it is one of the most significant rail chokepoints along the East Coast. The new Long Bridge program will double the capacity of the Potomac River rail crossing by adding a second two-track bridge adjacent to the existing bridge and including a new bike-pedestrian shared use path spanning the George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Potomac River. Senators Warner and Kaine introduced the Long Bridge Act of 2020 in August to allow for this construction.
    • Includes the full federal funding of $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to fund critical capital investment and safety projects. In addition, the bill provides $14 billion in emergency relief for public transit agencies to continue operations during the pandemic, ensuring access to transportation for frontline workers and civil servants.
    • Includes a one year extension of Community Development Block Grant funds to the City of Norfolk and other localities to build climate resilient infrastructure projects. Senators Kaine and Warner joined Senator John Hoeven in introducing S.4017 in June, which would also have provided an extension for the NDRC program.
    • Includes $87.5 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program—an increase of $2.5 million from FY 2020. The Chesapeake Bay Program coordinates Chesapeake Bay watershed restoration and protection efforts, and the majority of its funds are passed through to the states and local communities for on-the-ground restoration.
    • Authorizes federal funds to cover 65% of the costs associated with construction projects to address close to $1.5 billion of flood control needs in the City of Norfolk.
    • Grants a critical cost adjustment to allow work to continue on the Deep Creek Bridge inChesapeake to address traffic concerns.
    • Authorizes over $102.7 million in federal funds for construction of the North Landing BridgeReplacement project.
    • Provides up to $9 million for the Federal Aviation Administration to continue its remote tower system pilot program at smaller airports, including the Remote Air Traffic Control Tower at Leesburg Executive Airport.
  • Great American Outdoors Act: With Senator Warner’s Great American Outdoors Act now law, the FY21 omnibus affirms funding for several deferred maintenance projects in Virginia:
    • George Washington Memorial Parkway – A $207 million project to restore 7.6 miles of northern section of the GW Parkway and implement critical safety measures. The Senators have long advocated for federal funding for this project for several years as seen here and here.
    • Shenandoah National Park – A $27 million project to pave and restore nearly 50 miles of Skyline Drive and various overlooks. Shenandoah will also receive nearly $3.5 million to remove unnecessary buildings and restore greenspace within the park.
    • Colonial National Historical Park – A $16.5 million project to restore nearly 5 miles of shoreline along the York River.
  • FBI Headquarters: Provides no funding for a new FBI headquarters and includes language that encourages General Services Administration (GSA) to provide a new prospectus, particularly after the Trump Administration abruptly abandoned plans to develop a new campus headquarters for the FBI. Earlier this year, Senators Warner and Kaine opposed an attempt in an earlier Republican COVID-19 relief package that would have provided $1.75 billion for construction of a new FBI HQ in its current downtown D.C. location.  
  • Miners’ Benefits: Extends the funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund until the end of 2021 by extending the tax on mining companies that helps fund the program. Both Kaine and Warner introduced the Black Lung Benefits Disability Trust Fund Solvency Act calling on Congress to extend the excise tax through the end of 2030.
  • Shipbuilding & MILCON funding: Provides $23.27 billion for shipbuilding for 10 battle force ships including full funding for a second Virginia-class submarine, which Senators Warner and Kaine personally advocated for. The bill also appropriates $237 million for 6 MILCON projects in Virginia, including:
    • Humphreys Engineer Center, Training Support Facility (Army) - $51m
    • Norfolk, E-2D Training Facility (Navy) - $30.4m
    • Norfolk, Corrosion Control and Paint Facility (Navy) - $17.671m
    • Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Access Control Point Main Gate with Land Acquisition (Air Force) - $19.5m
    • Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Story, Operations Facility and Command Center (Def-Wide) - $54.5m
    • JEB Little Creek-Story, NSWG Facilities (Def-Wide) - $58m
  • Federal contractors: Senators Warner and Kaine also pushed to extend a provision from CARES (3610), which allows contractual adjustments for a paid leave program, allowing contractors to keep employees on the payroll if federal facilities close due to the pandemic – an important provision for our defense industrial base and cleared national security workforce. 
  • Foster care and homeless youth: Includes key provisions of Senator Kaine’s bill with Senator Murray and Senator Portman, the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act, to remove barriers to financial aid for students experiencing homelessness or students formerly in foster care by easing the application and determination for becoming eligible for aid. The bill also includes language allowing foster youth to remain in the system until October 1, 2021, regardless of their age—a move that Senators Warner and Kaine called for in a recent letter to the administration.
  • Funds Childhood Disease ResearchProvides $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Research Program to conduct pediatric cancer and disease research. The Senators worked to enact the legislation authorizing this program, named for 10-year-old Gabriella Miller of Loudoun County, who passed away from cancer in October of 2013.
  • Supporting working students and families: Includes key provisions of Senator Kaine’s bill with Senator Baldwin, the Working Students Actto reduce the “work penalty” that many students who work while attending school face. Currently, students who work while attending school often are eligible for less financial aid due to their work income. The appropriations bill enacts a 35% increase for working students and 20% increase for families to the income protection allowance (IPA), shielding more of their income from reducing their financial aid.
  • Student Loan Repayment: Extends an important change to existing tax policy allowing employers to use pre-tax dollars to help pay down employees’ student debt until 2025 – a provision modeled after Senator Warner’s bipartisan Employer Participation in Repayment Act to help more than 44 million Americans with student loan debt.
  • Ashanti Alert: Includes $1 million in federal funding to help with the nationwide implementation of the Ashanti Alert system. Following the abduction of 19-year old Ashanti Billie, who did not meet the criteria for an Amber or Silver Alert, Senator Warner secured unanimous passage of this national alert system through the Senate on December 6, 2018, and has been a leader in the fight to implement the Ashanti Alert nationwide ever since.
  • Nutrition: Provides $13 billion in nutrition assistance, including a 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits through June 30, 2021 for all SNAP participants. Excludes unemployment compensation from being counted as income for the purposes of calculating SNAP benefits and eligibility. Provides $400 million for food banks through The Emergency Food Assistance Program.
  • Farmers: Provides $13 billion for direct payments, purchases, and loans to producers who have suffered losses due to the pandemic, including funds to support the food supply chain through food purchases, donations to food banks, and support for local food systems. Additionally, it includes $5 billion for supplemental payments to row crop producers; $3 billion for supplemental payments to cattle producers and contract growers of livestock and poultry, dairy farmers, and producers who were forced to euthanize livestock or poultry; $225 million for producers of specialty crops; and $1.5 billion to purchase food for distribution to those in need.
  • Timber Harvesting/Hauling: Provides up to $200 million to support timber harvesting and timber hauling businesses impacted by COVID-19. 
  • Dairy: Provides up to $400 million for a Dairy Product Donation Program, modeled after the 2018 Farm Bill pilot program to facilitate the donation of dairy products and minimize food waste. 
  • Textiles: Allows USDA to make payments to users of upland cotton and extra-long staple cotton.
  • Fisheries: Provides $300 million in assistance to help fisheries mitigate COVID-19 related impacts. 
  • Water Utility Bill Assistance: Provides $638 million for a new program to help low-income families cover the costs of drinking water and wastewater utility bills by making funds available to states and Tribes. These localities will provide dollars to owners or operators of public water systems or treatment works to reduce arrearages and rates for low-income households.
  • Appalachian Regional Commission: Includes a record $180 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission, an increase of $5 million from FY20.

 ###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in  a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) opposing the implementation of President Trump’s recent Executive Order prohibiting federal agencies, contractors and grant recipients from using workplace diversity and inclusion trainings that promote “divisive concepts.”

In an OMB memo, Director Russell Vought said trainings that include terms such as “systemic racism”, “white privilege” and “unconscious bias” are likely included in that prohibition. As a result, many entities, including hospitals, community health centers, colleges and universities, and non-profit organizations that hold contracts with the federal government have cancelled or delayed their trainings. 

“The Executive Order and the Administration’s implementation actions to date are already stifling much-needed efforts in our states to reduce racial and sex-based discrimination. There is widespread uncertainty regarding the scope of the Executive Order, and some entities have cancelled their diversity and inclusion trainings altogether out of fear of losing federal funding,”the Senators wrote in a letter to OMB Director Vought. “Given that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exposed our nation’s stark racial inequities and other health disparities, the Administration should focus on reducing racial and sex-based discrimination rather than engaging in ill-informed political stunts. We urge you to immediately halt your efforts to implement this propagandist and deeply harmful Executive Order.”

The lawmakers pointed out that legitimate diversity and inclusion training “would not promote repugnant ideas such as the ‘inherent superiority’ of a particular race” and that a training that promoted those ideas are already illegal under longstanding anti-discrimination laws. The Senators then slammed the Administration for showing a complete disregard and misunderstanding of the racial equity movements in the country. 

“However, by equating the acknowledgement of unconscious bias or systemic racism with claims of racial superiority, the Administration is purposefully sowing confusion and fear about our country’s growing diversity and recent political movements in support of racial equity,” the lawmakers wrote. “By creating vague and illogical requirements, the Administration is effectively discouraging entities from offering diversity and inclusion trainings altogether, which we fear is the underlying goal of this misguided effort.”

The letter was also signed by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.). 

A copy of the letter can be found here and below. 

 

Dear Mr. Vought, 

We write today to express our profound opposition to President Trump’s recent Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping. The Executive Order and the Administration’s implementation actions to date are already stifling much-needed efforts in our states to reduce racial and sex-based discrimination. There is widespread uncertainty regarding the scope of the Executive Order, and some entities have cancelled their diversity and inclusion trainings altogether out of fear of losing federal funding. Given that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exposed our nation’s stark racial inequities and other health disparities, the Administration should focus on reducing racial and sex-based discrimination rather than engaging in ill-informed political stunts. We urge you to immediately halt your efforts to implement this propagandist and deeply harmful Executive Order. 

On September 22, 2020, President Trump issued Executive Order 13950, which claims to “combat offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating” by prohibiting federal agencies, contractors, and grant recipients from using workplace training programs that promote “divisive concepts.”  According to the Executive Order, such concepts include that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” and that “an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex.” In your September 28, 2020 memorandum instructing the heads of executive departments and agencies on implementation, you stated that the Executive Order likely prohibits trainings that use terms such as “systemic racism,” “white privilege,” and “unconscious bias.” 

Legitimate diversity and inclusion training for federal employees, contractors, or federally supported entities would not promote repugnant ideas such as the “inherent superiority” of a particular race – and in fact such a training would already be illegal under longstanding anti-discrimination laws. However, by equating the acknowledgement of unconscious bias or systemic racism with claims of racial superiority, the Administration is purposefully sowing confusion and fear about our country’s growing diversity and recent political movements in support of racial equity. By creating vague and illogical requirements, the Administration is effectively discouraging entities from offering diversity and inclusion trainings altogether, which we fear is the underlying goal of this misguided effort. Additionally, the Executive Order is unclear about its applicability to federal grantees, creating widespread uncertainty among state governments and other federal grant recipients. 

Indeed, the Executive Order and your subsequent memorandum have exerted a chilling effect on both federal agencies and the many entities in our states that receive federal funding. The Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services halted all diversity and inclusion trainings for managers and employees. The Health Resources and Services Administration has reportedly frozen funding for some state-run implicit bias trainings for hospitals and community health centers. Some colleges and universities paused or cancelled their diversity and inclusion trainings and other diversity-focused events out of fear of jeopardizing their federal funding.  Companies and non-profit organizations that hold contracts with the federal government cancelled or delayed their trainings. 

By continuing to implement this misguided policy during the final days of President Trump’s Administration, your agency is discouraging and needlessly politicizing critical efforts to end racial and sex-based discrimination. Once again, we urge you to immediately cease implementing this illogical and harmful Executive Order. Thank you for your prompt consideration of this urgent matter no later than December 23, 2020.

Sincerely, 

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner, Tim Kaine, and Gary Peters, introduced legislation that would block the implementation of an October 21 Executive Order by President Trump that would make it easier for the Administration to fire non-partisan civil servants with policy expertise.

“We cannot allow the President to deny federal employees crucial workplace protections,” said Senators Warner and Kaine. “Our federal workforce has been under unprecedented attacks by this administration, and this harmful decision only benefits the President’s loyalists instead of serving the interests of the American people.”

On October 21, President Trump signed an executive order that would allow agency heads to convert certain policy-centric positions to a new classification, Schedule F, where there is greater flexibility to fire those employees. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Acting Director Michael Rigas issued preliminary guidance on October 23 that suggests a broad interpretation of the types of positions that would be eligible for conversion. This has created concern that the Administration could fire civil servants and create uncertainty in federal agencies that are critical to protecting the nation’s national security and addressing the ongoing pandemic. OPM has still not answered basic questions regarding the development, implementation, and potential consequences of this hastily issued executive order.

The legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tom Carper (D-DE), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Doug Jones (D-AL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kyrsten Simena (D-AZ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tom Udall (D-NM), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jon Tester (D-MT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Chris Murphy (D-CT).

Senators Warner and Kaine have been fierce advocates for Virginia’s federal employees. In February, the Senators sent a letter to President Trump urging him to reverse his decision that would negatively impact the collective bargaining rights of Department of Defense (DOD) employees. In March, the Senators also became cosponsors of the Protecting Collective Bargaining and Official Time for Federal Workers Act, a bill that would rescind four executive actions that restrict the effectiveness of unions for federal workers. During the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, the Senators took a series of actions to protect affected workers, including guaranteeing back pay for federal employees, urging back pay for contractors, introducing budget amendments to protect federal workers, and urging OPM to prevent the termination of dental and vision insurance for federal employees. 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Representative Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) in introducing bipartisan, bicameral legislation to make the payroll tax deferral outlined by President Trump optional for any worker whose employer chooses to participate, including federal employees and service members. The text of the Preventing Employees from Surprise Taxes Act can be found here.  

“Day in and day out our military members and federal employees work to help the American people, but instead of supporting these public servants, President Trump is using them as pawns in his political payroll tax scheme. This cannot stand. Our men and women in uniform and federal employees should be able to make the financial decisions that work best for them rather than be forced to participate in Trump’s PR stunt against their will. That’s why I’m glad to lead this bipartisan push and will continue fighting to get this done,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“I have heard from countless federal employees and service members concerned that they are going to be hit with a massive tax bill due to the Trump administration’s election year gimmick,” said Chairman Connolly.  “Our legislation will protect these public servants and give them a choice in participating in this program.”

In addition to Sens. Warner and Van Hollen, this legislation was cosponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

In the House the legislation is cosponsored by Representatives Don Beyer(D-Va.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), and Jim Costa (D-Calif.).

The legislation is supported by a number of organizations, including: the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, the National Federation of Federal Employees, the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund, the Senior Executives Association, the Federal Managers Association, the Professional Managers Association, National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys, United Power Trades Organization, Antilles Consolidated Education Association, National Weather Service Employees Organization, Patent Office Professional Association, National Association of Government Employees, National Education Association, Social Security Works, Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Americans for Tax Fairness, the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

Statements of support from many of these organizations can be found here.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) introduced the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act, legislation requiring federal agencies to establish and publish COVID-19 workplace protections. The bill, named after a Virginia federal worker who passed away from COVID-19 complications, would compel each federal agency to create and post concrete reopening plans online, at least 30 days prior to the return of federal employees. This legislation, which passed through the House of Representatives today, was introduced in the House by U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA).

Joining Sen. Warner in introducing this legislation are Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

“Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, federal employees have been hard at work to preserve essential government functions and ensure that the American people can continue to count on their government for vital guidance and assistance when they need it the most. However, this work should never come at the expense of workers’ lives, as was the case for Chai Suthammanont, a public servant from Virginia who passed from COVID-19 complications,” said Sen. Warner. “As public servants transition from remote to in-person work, the least we can do is avoid another tragedy and make sure that folks can return to a safe work environment. That’s why I introduced this legislation requiring federal agencies to publish their policies and procedures online, where federal workers and their families can access them before returning to work.”

“I want to thank Senator Warner for his work to protect the health and safety of our federal workforce. Chai was committed to his community, and for that, he gave up his life. Our bill will ensure federal employees have the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding their agencies’ reopening plans. We owe that to Chai and his family,” Rep. Connolly said.

According to this legislation, any federal agency reopening plan must include information on:

  • The personal protective equipment (PPE) provided to employees 
  • Additional cleaning protocols to be implemented by the agency
  • Efforts to ensure social distancing at worksites
  • Agency measures or efforts to protect employees who work outside of federal office buildings, such as auditors or inspectors
  • Safety and health requirements for members of the public visiting federal facilities
  • Contingency options for workers at high risk of contracting COVID-19
  • Efforts to ensure continuity of agency operations, including contingency plans should there be a surge in COVID-19 cases

In addition to requiring federal agencies to publish their reopening plans online, this legislation would require each agency’s Inspector General to submit a timely review on whether that agency has provided adequate PPE for employees and whether it has complied with this legislation by publishing COVID-19 safety policies and procedures.

This bill has been endorsed by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), and the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA).

Bill text is available here.

Sen. Warner has continued to be a longtime champion for federal workers during the COVID-19 crisis. In July, he joined a group of colleagues in urging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to include requirements to ensure maximum telework for federal employees and contractors in the next COVID-19 relief package. He also previously urged OMB and OPM to reverse course on plans to bring federal employees back to their worksites prematurely, and joined a number of his colleagues in requesting information regarding the safety of federal workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, in March, he called on OMB and OPM to post department and agency contingency plans and urged the President to immediately issue an executive order directing agencies to utilize telework capabilities to the maximum possible extent.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement following a report that the Trump Administration transferred detainees from COVID-19 hotspots in Florida and Arizona in order to access additional federal agents to end peaceful protests in Washington, D.C.:

“We are outraged by the recent news report. The transfers callously put federal employees, the Farmville community, and detainees at risk, in what appears to be an effort to add more federal agents to forcibly disperse peaceful protestors in Washington, D.C. this summer. For months, we have sounded the alarm about the dangers of transferring detained people between facilities during the pandemic, and we’re horrified by the administration’s actions. We will be demanding more answers from DHS and ICE today and will also request an investigation from the Office of the Inspector General in light of this incident.” 

Sens. Warner and Kaine have repeatedly pushed this Administration to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Virginia detention facilities. In June, after a transfer that resulted in a spike of more than 50 COVID-19 cases at Farmville, the Senators urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prioritize the health of detainees and workers by stopping the transfer of individuals in ICE custody and increasing COVID-19 testing at the facilities. Nearly a month later, with approximately 80 percent of the Farmville population testing positive for COVID-19, the Senators once again pressed ICE and DHS to stop transfers between facilities. They also posed a series of questions regarding the measures in place to safeguard the health of people in custody, staff members, and the community. In July, the Senators also insisted that the Trump Administration work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create and deploy teams of epidemiologists to conduct an assessment of the pandemic’s impact at the facility after nearly every detained person in the Farmville facility contracted COVID-19. At the Senators urging, the CDC deployed their teams to the Farmville facility in August to conduct an assessment of the rate of infection among workers and detainees, risk factors for infection among workers and detainees, infection control and prevention practices in the facility, and transmission dynamics among workers, detainees, and the surrounding community.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and more than 20 of their Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought urging them to make the payroll tax deferral outlined by President Trump last month optional for federal employees and service members. In their letter the Senators also push for answers on how the Administration plans to implement this deferral.

 “We urge you to let federal workers and uniformed service members choose whether to defer their payroll tax obligations under IRS Notice 2020-65, rather than forcing them to participate. Federal workers and service members should not be used as pawns for a payroll tax scheme that many private sector employers are unlikely to join and where key questions remain unanswered,” the Senators begin.

 “While some federal employees may want to defer their payroll tax payments, unions representing federal workers have made clear that many others do not,” they continue. “IRS Notice 2020-65 does not answer many key questions, but KPMG concludes that it ‘appears’ to give employers the option to, ‘Permit deferrals only at the employee’s election.’”

 They go on to highlight several unanswered questions on the tax deferral, writing, “Federal employees and service members lack basic information about how agencies will implement the payroll tax deferral.” The Senators urge Secretary Mnuchin and Director Vought to clarify these key details before the deferral begins on or around September 18.

 In addition to Sens. Warner and Van Hollen, signers include Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Angus King (I-Maine), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

 

Dear Secretary Mnuchin and Director Vought,

We urge you to let federal workers and uniformed service members choose whether to defer their payroll tax obligations under IRS Notice 2020-65, rather than forcing them to participate. Federal workers and service members should not be used as pawns for a payroll tax scheme that many private sector employers are unlikely to join and where key questions remain unanswered.

While some federal employees may want to defer their payroll tax payments, unions representing federal workers have made clear that many others do not. IRS Notice 2020-65 does not answer many key questions, but KPMG concludes that it “appears” to give employers the option to, “Permit deferrals only at the employee’s election.” PwC states that employers may want to provide this option to their workers, noting that, “The reduced take-home pay in early 2021 as a result of the additional withholding for the deferred Social Security tax may make some employees not want to participate in the deferral, even if their employer opts in.”

Federal employees and service members lack basic information about how agencies will implement the payroll tax deferral. In addition to clarifying whether federal employees will be forced to participate, please answer the following questions:

  1. If an employee or service member separates from their job prior to repaying deferred payroll taxes in their 2021 withholdings, will their employing agency or the IRS seek to collect unpaid payroll taxes from that employee? If so, how will they do so?
  1. Please provide us with a cost estimate for federal agencies to pay the employee payroll taxes that they are unable to withhold or otherwise recoup as a result of the deferral.
  1. How will federal agencies communicate key information about the payroll tax deferral to their workers, particularly regarding the reduction in take-home pay in 2021? As KPMG stresses, “It is important to manage employee expectations and keep employees informed of their obligations prior to making the election to defer.”

Reports indicate that federal employee paychecks may be affected by the payroll tax deferral on or around September 18. Please respond to these questions as soon as possible so that federal workers and service members have some clarity on these issues before their paychecks are changed.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) expressed deep concern with plans by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to furlough more than 13,000 employees, including more than 750 in Virginia. In a letter, the Senators urged USCIS Acting Director Joseph Edlow to continue to pay its employees and immediately halt the planned August 30 furloughs that would financially devastate many civil servants and delay the processing of important immigration processes, including refugee petitions, as well as naturalization and green card applications.

“While we differ with President Trump’s administration on many immigration policy matters and believe USCIS could benefit from better fiscal management, USCIS civil servants should not be forced to pay the price for this administration’s choices and other agency decisions that led to the current financial state of USCIS,” the senators wrote in the letter. “As you know all too well, furloughing approximately 13,400 USCIS employees on August 30, would have disastrous effects on the livelihoods of families in the Commonwealth and across the country.  In Virginia alone, more than 750 civil servants could be left without a paycheck amidst the tremendous economic uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The consequences of such furloughs would not only reverberate within their families and our region, but also within the immigrant communities USCIS serves.” 

“If USCIS were to furlough a vast majority of its workforce, this would drastically undercut the agency’s mission to facilitate lawful entry and immigration to the United States,” they continued. “People throughout Virginia and the United States count on a fully functioning USCIS, including countless immigrants who await naturalization ceremonies, employers who rely on the talent and labor of nonimmigrant workers, and vulnerable populations such as asylum seekers.”

USCIS is the federal agency that oversees immigration into the United States, adjudicating immigration benefits and processing visa petitions, as well as asylum, citizenship, naturalization, green card, and refugee applications. The agency, which is funded by the application fees paid by applicants and petitioners, faces a budget shortfall due to a 50 percent drop in applications. Reports indicate that this drop has been caused in part by the Administration’s own policies. 

Full text of today’s letter is available here and below.

 

Joseph Edlow

Deputy Director for Policy and Acting Director

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

20 Massachusetts Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20001

Dear Acting Director Edlow:

We are deeply concerned that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to furlough over 13,000 federal employees starting August 30, 2020. It has come to our attention that USCIS is no longer projecting a deficit for this fiscal year and can continue to pay its employees beyond the agency’s self-imposed deadline. We strongly urge you to use these funds to maintain employment for these federal workers. We are committed to work with you to prevent the impending furloughs of all USCIS employees from Virginia and across the country, and are willing to work together to find a solution to address the USCIS budget shortfall. 

We appreciate the conversations we have had with you, and the various concerns and nuances you have highlighted.  While we differ with President Trump’s administration on many immigration policy matters and believe USCIS could benefit from better fiscal management, USCIS civil servants should not be forced to pay the price for this administration’s choices and other agency decisions that led to the current financial state of USCIS.

As you know all too well, furloughing approximately 13,400 USCIS employees on August 30, would have disastrous effects on the livelihoods of families in the Commonwealth and across the country.  In Virginia alone, more than 750 civil servants could be left without a paycheck amidst the tremendous economic uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The consequences of such furloughs would not only reverberate within their families and our region, but also within the immigrant communities USCIS serves.

Employees at USCIS perform critical work in processing visa petitions, asylum, citizenship, and naturalization applications, green cards and refugee applications.  If USCIS were to furlough a vast majority of its workforce, this would drastically undercut the agency’s mission to facilitate lawful entry and immigration to the United States.  People throughout Virginia and the United States count on a fully functioning USCIS, including countless immigrants who await naturalization ceremonies, employers who rely on the talent and labor of nonimmigrant workers, and vulnerable populations such as asylum seekers. 

While we remain dedicated to finding a workable solution for USCIS and its employees, we urge an immediate halt of all furloughs planned for August 30.  Federal workers and immigrant communities deserve better than the havoc that would be brought on by such furloughs. We look forward to continuing conversations with you and our Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure we come to a solution.

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and a bipartisan group of Senators in sending a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urging them to include maximum telework requirements for federal employees and contractors in the next coronavirus relief package. 

“As the Senate considers the next coronavirus relief package, we urge you to include requirements to ensure maximum telework for federal employees and contractors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal employees and contractors have been teleworking successfully throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency, many of whom have been keeping vital services running and implementing relief measures to support the economy and stop the spread of COVID-19,” the Senators begin.

“As new waves of COVID-19 cases continue to hit areas across the country, it is especially important for federal agencies to have a clear mandate that sets a positive example for employers to keep their workforces and communities safe. Plans to bring federal employees back into offices prematurely would threaten to erase the progress made against the coronavirus and increase community spread,” they continue. 

They emphasize the public health benefits of telework, writing, “All federal employees and contractors who can perform their duties remotely should be doing so. Agencies should enable telework for as many federal workers and contractor personnel as possible, and should continue to maximize telework throughout the pandemic. Telework protects not only federal employees from the spread of COVID-19, but also their families and the communities across the country in which they work.”

Along with Sens. Warner and Van Hollen, the letter was signed by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Angus King (I-Maine), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). 

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

 

Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer: 

As the Senate considers the next coronavirus relief package, we urge you to include requirements to ensure maximum telework for federal employees and contractors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal employees and contractors have been teleworking successfully throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency, many of whom have been keeping vital services running and implementing relief measures to support the economy and stop the spread of COVID-19.

As new waves of COVID-19 cases continue to hit areas across the country, it is especially important for federal agencies to have a clear mandate that sets a positive example for employers to keep their workforces and communities safe. Plans to bring federal employees back into offices prematurely would threaten to erase the progress made against the coronavirus and increase community spread.

All federal employees and contractors who can perform their duties remotely should be doing so. Agencies should enable telework for as many federal workers and contractor personnel as possible, and should continue to maximize telework throughout the pandemic. Telework protects not only federal employees from the spread of COVID-19, but also their families and the communities across the country in which they work.

We appreciate your past support for federal employees and the funding provided in the CARES Act to help agencies expand telework. We ask that you continue this support by requiring maximum telework in the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the next coronavirus relief package. 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) sent a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Russell T. Vought and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Acting Director Michael J. Rigas, urging them to reverse course on plans by several agencies to bring federal employees back to their worksites prematurely, by issuing clear guidance to extend maximum telework throughout the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. 

The Senators begin, “We write to express our opposition to plans to require many federal employees in the National Capital Region to return to their worksites. The current guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is encouraging these unsafe actions, and we urge you to issue new guidance to better protect the federal workforce and surrounding communities from the increasing spread of COVID-19.”

They continue, “As we are seeing around the nation, premature reopenings are leading to new waves of COVID-19 cases. It is especially important for federal agencies to have clear guidance that sets a positive example. As of July 8th, more than 3,000,000 Americans have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 131,700 Americans have died.”

The Senators note that current OPM/OMB guidance conflicts with direction from other members of the Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionand that of state and local governments. For example, “In the National Capital Region, many federal agencies are bringing employees back to the office instead of teleworking, even though the reopening guidelines for Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia all urge employers to continue telework as much as possible. Unlike these federal agencies, governments in Maryland, Virginia, and the District continue to utilize liberal telework policies and limited office capacity for public sector workers.”

They go on to underscore that prior to the pandemic, 40% of rush hour Metro commuters were federal workers, so dismantling maximum telework could endanger the health and safety of the entire region. “And since 85 percent of federal employees work outside of our region, it endangers the entire country. We urge you to issue clearer guidance directing agencies to continue maximizing telework throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Senators conclude. 

The Senators have urged maximum telework and protections for federal employees and contractors throughout the pandemic. In April, they joined a letter to OPM and OMB seeking answers on inconsistent and confusing guidance, and raising concerns about ending maximum telework prematurely. In March, Van Hollen led a letter with the other National Capital Region Senators to President Trump, pressing him to sign an executive order maximizing telework for federal workers. Additionally in March, the Senators signed a letter to OPM urging that federal employees who follow recommended public health guidance to limit the spread of the coronavirus not be penalized.

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

 

Dear Mr. Rigas and Mr. Vought:

We write to express our opposition to plans to require many federal employees in the National Capital Region to return to their worksites. The current guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is encouraging these unsafe actions, and we urge you to issue new guidance to better protect the federal workforce and surrounding communities from the increasing spread of COVID-19.

As we are seeing around the nation, premature reopenings are leading to new waves of COVID-19 cases. It is especially important for federal agencies to have clear guidance that sets a positive example. As of July 8th, more than 3,000,000 Americans have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 131,700 Americans have died. 

Federal employees and contractors have been teleworking successfully throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency, keeping vital services running and implementing economic relief programs and measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. Many workers in our area still lack access to regular child care due to COVID-19, and ordering these workers back into the office makes it needlessly harder for them to balance work and family obligations during the pandemic.

The current guidance is encouraging agencies to end maximum telework prematurely. COVID-19 is a deadly threat to anyone – and anyone can carry the virus and transmit it to others – but the current OPM/OMB guidance only supports sustained maximum telework throughout the pandemic for certain workers deemed to be high risk. Further, the guidance sometimes conflicts with direction from other members of the Trump Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local governments. Reopening too quickly by ending maximum telework threatens to erase the progress made against the virus and endanger the health and safety of federal employees and everyone else in an agency’s region through increased community spread.

In the National Capital Region, many federal agencies are bringing employees back to the office instead of teleworking, even though the reopening guidelines for Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia all urge employers to continue telework as much as possible. Unlike these federal agencies, governments in Maryland, Virginia, and the District continue to utilize liberal telework policies and limited office capacity for public sector workers. 

Prior to the pandemic, 40 percent of Metro commuters during rush hour in the National Capitol Region were federal employees. Any increased crowding on trains and buses in the National Capital Region will only further increase the risk of spreading COVID-19. 

Your current guidance is endangering the health and safety of federal workers and everyone in our region. And since 85 percent of federal employees work outside of our region, it endangers the entire country. We urge you to issue clearer guidance directing agencies to continue maximizing telework throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Gary C. Peters (D-Mich.) and  18 of their Senate colleagues in writing to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) regarding the safety of federal workers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The senators are requesting information on the agencies’ efforts to ensure that agencies maximize telework across their workforce, collect and provide data on current teleworking practices at federal agencies, standardize the procedures by which positive cases of COVID-19 are handled and disclosed, and on how OMB and OPM are evaluating when it is safe for federal employees to return to work at their physical job sites.

Joining Sens. Warner, Warren, Murray, and Peters sending the letter are Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus S. King, Jr. (I-Maine), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)

“As the number of coronavirus cases and the number of deaths—including deaths of federal employees—continue to rise, it is imperative that all federal employees are appropriately protected, and have assurance that their safety will take precedence and be the highest priority in decisions about when and how they return to their job sites,” the senators wrote.

As the two agencies tasked with managing human resources across the federal government, OMB and OPM have the authority and responsibility to protect federal employees and prevent them from contracting and unwittingly spreading COVID-19 during this pandemic. Last week, OMB and OPMissued a memo directing federal agencies to “incorporate” President Trump’s Opening Up America Again guidelines “into agency workplace protocols,” and encouraging federal agencies “to allow Federal employees and contractors to return to the office in low-risk areas.” Public health experts have expressed serious concerns about these guidelines and warned that there is still not sufficient testing, tracing, or personal protective equipment to know where, and when it is safe to relax social distancing and quarantine guidelines.

In their letter, the senators noted that, although thousands of federal employees have reportedly been infected with COVID-19, teleworking has been implemented inconsistently across the federal government. The senators cited reports that some employees’ requests to work remotely are being denied, even though their jobs can be done remotely, and that in some offices, senior staff are able to telework while lower-level administrative staff are required to come to work in close quarters. They highlighted a recent report that some workers might be hiding their symptoms out of fear of retaliations, because of pressure to return to work. The senators also noted that there appears to be no uniform guidance for federal agencies to handle and report positive COVID-19 cases among their workforce.

“In the face of this pandemic, your agencies should take aggressive and ongoing measures, as recommended by public health experts, to protect federal workers and prevent the deadly spread of COVID-19,” the senators continued. “Additionally, this crisis has demonstrated the clear ability of a great many federal workers to work remotely via telework and has therefore renewed questions regarding why this Administration has restricted effective, efficient, and—as this moment demonstrates—beneficial telework for federal workers.”

The senators raised concerns that the recently-issued OMB and OPM guidance may be taken as a signal that there is no need to make telework more widely available because further direction to reopen the government may be forthcoming. 

To address their concerns, the senators asked that OPM and OMB answer a series of questions about ensuring that agencies maximize telework, procedures among agencies for reporting and handling COVID-19 cases, how they are determining when to roll back telework guidance, and more. They requested answers to their questions by May 8, 2020.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after voting in favor of a $2 trillion bipartisan package to provide financial relief to businesses and families as well as hospitals and local governments during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic: 

“This is not the first step Congress has taken to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, nor will it be the last. This bill provides significant financial relief to our families and businesses struggling with the effects of widespread closures and other public health measures. It greatly expands access to unemployment benefits – including, for the first time, gig workers, contractors and the self-employed –  and includes tax credits and other incentives I negotiated with the Trump Administration to help small businesses keep workers on payroll and keep them from going out of business during this crisis. This bipartisan bill also includes a massive infusion of resources for hospitals, frontline caregivers, and states and localities dealing with the brunt of COVID-19. I strongly urge the House of Representatives to pass this bill without delay, so that we can get this urgently-required relief to those who so badly need it.

“This is a challenge unlike any we have faced in recent memory, but I believe that we as a country can and will get through this together. I will remain in close touch with state, local and health officials to ensure that we are doing everything possible to provide the resources needed to fight the coronavirus.”

Previously, the President signed a bipartisan $8.3 billion emergency funding bill that directed needed resources to federal, state and local agencies responding to coronavirus. This legislation immediately provided Virginia with $13.3 million in federal funding to help cover the costs of preparations for this public health emergency. It also included language based on Sen. Warner’s CONNECT for Health Act of 2019, which reduces restrictions on the use of telehealth for public health emergency response, as well as $500 million to facilitate its implementation.

On March 18, the President signed a second bipartisan coronavirus response bill that focused on the immediate economic impact of the coronavirus. This legislation expanded paid sick leave to many Americans, cut restrictions on unemployment insurance for workers who have lost their jobs or had their hours cut, and guaranteed freed coronavirus testing. It also included significant emergency funding for Medicaid, nutrition assistance, state unemployment programs, and coronavirus testing at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers.

Today’s legislation provides for $1,200 in direct payments to most Americans, and includes billions of dollars in lending and grant programs designed to help businesses, workers and municipalities survive this crisis, along with strong transparency and accountability measures to make sure that federal funding doesn’t go towards stock buybacks or bonuses for corporate executives. Today’s bipartisan bill also provides for $150 billion for hospitals and other public health infrastructure, part of an unprecedented investment that Sen. Warner and other Democrats fought to include as our frontline responders struggle under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic. It also includes an important change to existing tax policy allowing employers, for the first time, to use pre-tax dollars to help pay down employees’ student debt – provision modeled after Sen. Warner’s bipartisan Employer Participation in Repayment Act.

A more comprehensive list of Sen. Warner’s work to protect Americans amid the coronavirus outbreak is available here.  

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, pushed the Department of Defense (DoD) to issue guidance for uniformed, civilian, and contractor personnel to help them better understand their options for paid leave and telework amid the COVID-19 outbreak. In a letter to Secretary Mark T. Esper, Sen. Warner requested that the DoD clarify what types of leave are applicable in a variety of COVID-19 related scenarios, and provide guidance on the types of DoD workers that are eligible for telework.

“An area of particular concern is how administrative leave, weather and safety leave, sick leave, and annual leave apply under a variety of COVID-19 related scenarios,” wrote Sen. Warner. “These personnel should not face uncertainty or obstacles in their efforts to preserve our individual or collective health.” 

Currently, there is fragmentation in the DoD’s current leave policy that creates ambiguity regarding the kind of leave that would apply if employees needed to take time off work in the event that they were symptomatic, exposed but not symptomatic, or if they needed to care for family members who have contracted COVID-19. 

In his letter, Sen. Warner, who has heard from several Virginians who have been forbidden from teleworking despite considerable safety concerns, also urged the DoD to clarify which employees occupy mission-critical positions, and which are eligible for telework.

“The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued guidance for agencies to expand telework flexibility, but at present, guidance issued by OMB, OPM, and the Department have ambiguity that is creating confusion and anxiety,” he continued. “Personnel whose duties and responsibilities do not immediately contribute to a critical national security function would benefit from a clear directive instructing them to work remotely and would make a significant impact for our nation.”

In his letter, Sen. Warner encouraged the Department to create further telework options, as appropriate, for employees currently deemed ineligible for telework in order to protect their safety and health and that of their family members. He also emphasized that any guidance should be consistent and transparent for all eligible personnel stationed across the country and abroad.  

Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate for federal workers amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Yesterday, he led seven of his Senate colleagues in calling on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to post department and agency contingency plans amid the COVID-19 outbreak as more federal agencies begin to ramp up teleworking capabilities. Additionally, he has urged President Trump to immediately issue an executive order directing agencies to utilize telework capabilities to the maximum possible extent, and has called on the House and Senate to address the potential financial hardship for Congress’ support workforce if their work schedules are unexpectedly disrupted as the result of changes to congressional operations.

A copy of the letter is available here and below, and a full list of Sen. Warner’s work to protect Americans amid the coronavirus outbreak is available here.

 

The Honorable Mark T. Esper

Secretary

U.S. Department of Defense 

Washington, D.C.  20301

Dear Secretary Esper:

I write to ask you to clarify personnel policy governing the Department’s response to COVID-19 so that uniformed, civilian, and contractor personnel better understand how they can and should adapt to minimize the spread and impact of this virus.

An area of particular concern is how administrative leave, weather and safety leave, sick leave, and annual leave apply under a variety of COVID-19 related scenarios, to include for personnel whose normal duty station is a classified facility, whether personnel occupy a mission critical position or not, if they are symptomatic or exposed but not symptomatic, and if they must care for family members who have contracted COVID-19.

These personnel should not face uncertainty or obstacles in their efforts to preserve our individual or collective health. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued guidance for agencies to expand telework flexibility, but at present, guidance issued by OMB, OPM, and the Department have ambiguity that is creating confusion and anxiety.  For example, personnel should have due flexibility to telework, as appropriate, to protect their safety and health and that of their family members.

Personnel whose duties and responsibilities do not immediately contribute to a critical national security function would benefit from a clear directive instructing them to work remotely and would make a significant impact for our nation.  For personnel deemed ineligible for telework, the Department should investigate and create further options, when possible, to temporarily make them eligible. The urgency for the Department to take necessary steps and clarify concerns about telework options for personnel will ensure personnel do not feel aggrieved during the outbreak of COVID-19.  This guidance should be consistent and transparent for all eligible personnel stationed across the country and abroad.

Maintaining a healthy workforce with confidence in the government’s commitment to their welfare is of the utmost importance to us.  Thank you in advance for your prompt response and attention to this matter.

I look forward to working with you to address this matter of urgent priority.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led seven of his Senate colleagues in a letter to the Acting Directors of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) calling on the agencies to post department and agency contingency plans amid the COVID-19 outbreak so that Americans know what services to expect as more federal agencies begin to ramp up teleworking capabilities to mitigate the spread of the virus. In their letter, the Senators stress that publicly posting the information would provide federal employees and contractors with thorough guidance and allow policymakers to ensure proper compliance.

“As the federal government continues to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, we request that you require departments and agencies to post their continuity of operation (COOP) plans online in an accessible format and central location, unless there are legitimate intelligence or national security reasons not to do so. Making these plans transparent and readily available is key to ensuring that our constituents understand what services are continuing in the midst of the uncertainty and disruption caused by COVID-19. It is also important for federal employees and contractors to understand and properly implement the required mitigation measures and for policymakers to ensure compliance with these measures,” wrote the Senators.

In their letter, the Senators underscore that providing this information publicly would be consistent with the way in which the government handles contingency plans during a government shutdown. Further, publishing the information publicly would provide Congress with greater transparency to ensure compliance.

“Sharing this information publicly would be consistent with how the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has posted department and agency contingency plans for lapses in federal appropriations. Such transparency is critical to give citizens confidence in the government response during this difficult time and assure federal employees and contractors that the government is prioritizing their health and well-being,” they continued.

In addition to Sen. Warner, the letter was signed by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Gary Peters (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

 

The Honorable Michael Rigas

Acting Director

Office of Personnel Management

1900 E Street NW

Washington, DC 20415-1000

The Honorable Russell Vought

Acting Director

Office of Management and Budget

725 17th Street NW 

Washington, DC 20503 

Dear Acting Director Rigas and Acting Director Vought:

As the federal government continues to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, we request that you require departments and agencies to post their continuity of operation (COOP) plans online in an accessible format and central location, unless there are legitimate intelligence or national security reasons not to do so. Making these plans transparent and readily available is key to ensuring that our constituents understand what services are continuing in the midst of the uncertainty and disruption caused by COVID-19. It is also important for federal employees and contractors to understand and properly implement the required mitigation measures and for policymakers to ensure compliance with these measures.

Sharing this information publicly would be consistent with how the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has posted department and agency contingency plans for lapses in federal appropriations. Such transparency is critical to give citizens confidence in the government response during this difficult time and assure federal employees and contractors that the government is prioritizing their health and well-being.

Maintaining a healthy federal workforce with confidence in the government’s commitment to their welfare is of the utmost importance to us. Thank you in advance for your prompt response and attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and 25 of his colleagues, in sending a letter to President Trump urging him to immediately issue an executive order directing agencies to utilize telework capabilities to the maximum possible extent. While the Administration has issued guidance recommending agencies expand their telework capabilities, too many federal employees are still required to come to work in-person when they can do their job from home. As the Centers for Disease Control and other public health experts recommend practicing social-distancing, the federal government should lead by example and cease all policies that could endanger the health and safety of its employees and exacerbate the spread of the coronavirus.

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.” 

In addition to Senator Van Hollen, the letter was signed by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Angus King (I-Maine), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

 

The full text of the letter is available here and below: 

Dear President Trump,

We 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. State and local governments have been far more proactive than the federal Executive Branch in making arrangements for their employees to telework where possible. We have maximized teleworking in our Senate Offices. You should order Executive agencies to do the same. We must lead by example. 

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. 

You should order agencies to immediately rescind all cuts to telework made since 2016. In 2017, the most recent year for which data are available, 21% of federal employees participated in telework – a slight decline after years of steady increases from 14% in 2012. In 2017, 43% of employees were telework-eligible, so allowing all of them to telework during this emergency would make an immediate difference. 

These telework directives should apply to federal workers throughout the United States and to other countries where there are cases of COVID-19. In the National Capital Region, 40% of Metro commuters during morning rush hour are federal employees, and these crowded trains and buses pose a major risk for COVID-19 transmission. But COVID-19 is a global pandemic, and only 15% of federal employees work in the National Capital Region. The federal government should not wait until an area already has widespread community transmission of COVID-19 to act.

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 we hear from increasingly anxious federal workers in our states on a daily basis. 

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), members of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, were joined by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in sending a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate committees responsible for Congressional administration, calling on them to address the potential financial hardship for Congress’ support workforce if they have to self-quarantine during this time or have their work schedules unexpectedly disrupted as the result of changes to congressional operations.

“Given the Legislative Branch’s extensive reliance on contract workers for a range of functions, including food service and janitorial work, we write to urge that you attempt to address the potential financial hardship for these workers if they have to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 or in the event the Congress adjourns for a prolonged state work period as a social distancing measure,” the Senators wrote.

In the letter, sent to Senate Committee on Rules and Administration Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO), Ranking Member Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Committee on House Administration Chairperson Zoe Lofgren (D-CA 19), and Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-IL 13), the Senators highlighted the role that janitors, food service workers, and other support contractors play in maintaining the Capitol complex, which hosts three to five million visitors each year.

“We encourage you to consider ensuring any workers who follow novel coronavirus-related guidance from public health authorities—including directives to be tested, self-quarantine, or take other “social distancing” measures—have some financial forbearance,” the Senators continued. “While we are pleased that the Architect of the Capitol has directed contractors to provide paid administrative leave to any worker that has been confirmed to have COVID-19, we believe more expansive accommodations must be established to protect the public health and ensure workers don’t experience significant financial hardship in the wake of guidance from public health authorities.”

Earlier today, the House and Senate Sergeants at Arms ordered limited access throughout the U.S. Capitol complex beginning this evening and running through April 1, 2020. The Capitol Visitor Center will be closed to all tours. The U.S. Capitol and Senate office buildings will be limited to Members, Congressional staff, credentialed press, and official business visitors escorted by a staff member.

A copy of the letter is found here and below. A list of Sen. Warner’s work on coronavirus is available here.

 

March 12, 2020

The Honorable Roy Blunt

Chairman

Senate Committee on Rules & Administration

Russell 305

Washington, DC 20510 

The Honorable Zoe Lofgren

Chairperson

Committee on House Administration

Longworth 1309

Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Amy Klobuchar

Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Rules & Administration

Russell 305

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Rodney Davis

Ranking Member

Committee on House Administration

Longworth 1309

Washington, DC 20515

Chairman Blunt, Ranking Member Klobuchar, Chairperson Lofgren & Ranking Member Davis:

As the United States mobilizes to respond to the recent outbreak and spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, we urge you to take into consideration the well-being of all of Legislative Branch employees, including contract workers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put out a public health response to a potential coronavirus disease outbreak in the United States that included recommendations for social distancing.  The CDC is urging Americans to stay home when ill, work remotely, and seek medical care when infected. Out of an abundance of caution, workers who have had contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients have also been instructed to self-quarantine. In many contexts, employers have reduced operations, encouraging workers to stay at home on special leave prompted by the pandemic. Contract workers are critical to the daily function of the Capitol complex and surrounding buildings – a facility that hosts three to five million visitors each year. Approximately 60% of those visitors come to the Capitol complex between March and July.  

As The New York Times recently noted, however, following the CDC’s recommendations in response to the potential spread of the coronavirus is a luxury some workers can’t afford.  Some workers may simply not be able to follow these recommendations without experiencing some kind of financial hardship. Given the Legislative Branch’s extensive reliance on contract workers for a range of functions, including food service and janitorial work, we write to urge that you attempt to address the potential financial hardship for these workers if they have to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 or in the event the Congress adjourns for a prolonged state work period as a social distancing measure. 

Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on benefits provision, service sector workers are likely some of the most vulnerable workers during a potential spread of the coronavirus. We know, for example, that only 44% of service sector workers, 23% of part-time workers, and 37% of workers in the bottom quartile of wages have access to a healthcare plan.   A majority of these workers also tend to work without access to paid leave. Only 43% of service sector workers, 23% of part-time workers, and 56% of workers in the bottom quartile of earnings have access to some type of paid leave.  This last statistic is particularly salient for public health reasons because we know that more than 43% of workers in the bottom quartile needed to take leave in 2018 for their own illness or medical care and didn’t take it.  Over 60% of those part-time and lowest-wage workers felt they did not have enough leave, could not afford the loss of income, feared negative employment repercussions, or simply did not have access.  

We encourage you to consider ensuring any workers who follow novel coronavirus-related guidance from public health authorities—including directives to be tested, self-quarantine, or take other “social distancing” measures—have some financial forbearance. While we are pleased that the Architect of the Capitol has directed contractors to provide paid administrative leave to any worker that has been confirmed to have COVID-19, we believe more expansive accommodations must be established to protect the public health and ensure workers don’t experience significant financial hardship in the wake of guidance from public health authorities. 

Again, we strongly urge that you attempt to address the potential financial hardship for Congress’ support workforce if they have to self-quarantine during this time or have their work schedules unexpectedly disrupted as the result of changes to congressional operations. In order to limit the spread of COVID-19, Congress must lead by example by committing that economic uncertainty will not deter these dedicated public servants from following public health guidance during the response.

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter. We look forward to working together on this critical issue moving forward.

Sincerely,

 ###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to the Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) urging them to issue clear guidance that ensures the security clearances of intelligence community personnel and contractors will not be jeopardized due to the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

“I write to ask you to issue guidance directing agencies to exercise appropriate leniency in considering how the coronavirus (COVID-19) may be negatively impacting adjudications for a security clearance or determination of trust,” wrote Sen. Warner.

A key element of the background investigation that supports a security clearance or a determination of trustworthiness is an individual’s financial stability. In his letter, Sen. Warner raised concerns that COVID-19’s impact could not only lead to financial duress for employees with security clearances, but that this financial duress could lead to delays in renewing security clearances. It could even result in personnel losing their positions in the event that they must heed the advice of health professionals and subsequently lose out on a paycheck in order to self-quarantine. The problem is particularly true for younger workers who lack a long credit history.

“While I understand that departments and agencies may already have certain discretion to consider broader contextual factors that may affect personnel vetting decisions, I ask you to issue clear and public guidance that departments and agencies may in no way penalize employees’ clearances or determinations of trustworthiness due to circumstances associated with coping with COVID-19. This guidance should apply to any information used in an initial clearance, a periodic reinvestigation, or a continuous evaluation program,” continued Sen. Warner.

Earlier this week, the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) issued a statement that supports Sen. Warner’s recommendation for the DNI Acting Director to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus by issuing guidance that acknowledges that “financial difficulties incurred as a result of a work stoppage should not be treated as derogatory factors affecting workers’ security clearances.”

A copy of the letter is found here and below. A list of Sen. Warner’s work on coronavirus is available here.

 

The Honorable Dale Cabaniss

Director, Office of Personnel Management

1900 E Street, NW

Washington, D.C.  20415

Ambassador Richard Grenell

Acting Director of National Intelligence

Washington, D.C.  20511

Dear Director Cabaniss and Acting Director Grenell:

I write to ask you to issue guidance directing agencies to ensure that the coronavirus (COVID-19) does not negatively impact adjudications for government or contractor employees’ security clearances or determinations of trust.

COVID-19 may have many effects on our workforce, to include financial difficulty and psychological stress.  Efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 may require government and contractor personnel to self-quarantine or tend to family members, which in may cause them miss payments on things like rent, mortgage, credit cards, or other forms of debt.  The impact may be particularly acute for hourly workers.  This could impact their credit scores and jeopardize their ability to secure or maintain a clearance or hold a position of trust.  The problem is particularly acute for younger workers who lack a long credit history.  Psychological strain can naturally accompany such circumstances, exacerbating the situation.

While I understand that departments and agencies may already have certain discretion to consider broader contextual factors that may affect personnel vetting decisions, I ask you to issue clear and public guidance to ensure that departments and agencies do not penalize employees’ clearances or determinations of trustworthiness due to circumstances associated with COVID-19.  This guidance should apply to any information used in an initial clearance, a periodic reinvestigation, or a continuous evaluation/vetting program.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

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