Feds Can Ride Uber on the Government's Dime, Obama Administration Decides

The Obama administration issued guidance on Wednesday clarifying federal agencies should reimburse employees who use ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft for any travel on official business, effective immediately.

The General Services Administration issued a bulletin on the Federal Travel Regulation, cementing a policy many -- but not all -- agencies had already installed. While each agency manages the final authorization of travel expenses based on internal policy, GSA said federal employees can use mobile ride-hailing applications -- referred to in government parlance as Transportation Network Companies -- “when it is advantageous to the government.”

GSA wrote in a fact sheet accompanying the bulletin: “The simple answer is that yes, as a federal employee traveling on official business, you can be reimbursed for rideshares in accordance with your agency procedures and local laws.”

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GSA said companies like Uber can provide a “an efficient and cost effective alternative to taxis or rental cars.”

The agency advised feds to check with their agencies to determine the reimbursement policies for work travel in their local areas, as the FTR applies only to employees on temporary duty travel.

The guidance comes after a recent push from lawmakers to ensure feds could take advantage of ride-sharing companies. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., recently introduced the Government Travel Modernization Act to require the GSA to issue regulations allowing federal employees to use the services, as well as bikeshares, calling existing rules disparate and incomplete.

Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who head the subcommittee with direct oversight of the federal workforce, recently introduced legislation to allow feds in the Washington, D.C.-region to use their transit benefits toward ride-sharing companies while the area’s Metrorail system endures year-long repairs.

Last year, Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., put forward a measure to force some agencies get rid of a portion of their fleets and instead use companies such as Uber and Lyft.

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