The Environmental Protection Agency will offer buyout incentives to thousands of employees, offering workers up to $25,000 to separate from the organization.
The cash-strapped agency will target employees from its regional offices to trim its workforce, though some workers at “headquarters-type offices” will also receive separation incentives, according to a union official.
EPA is currently finalizing its incentive packages with the Office of Personnel Management, according to Karen Kellen, president of the local American Federation of Government Employees union that represents EPA employees. Kellen expects OPM later this week to approve the packages, which were submitted by all but three of EPA’s regions and offices.
The packages include both buyouts -- which offer varying cash separation incentives up to $25,000 depending on length of service to employees who have worked in federal government at least three years -- and early retirement incentives, which do not offer payments but allow employees to collect retirement benefits earlier than otherwise allowed.
The EPA was particularly hard hit by sequestration in 2013, forcing employees to take six unpaid furlough days. The agency was appropriated $8.2 billion in fiscal 2014, a $300 million boost from its spending cap last year but still $143 million less than its pre-sequestration level. EPA has seen its appropriations cut by more than 20 percent since 2010.
EPA’s Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe sent an agency-wide email to announce the buyouts, according to Greenwire, saying the more targeted approach would benefit the agency more than its previous attrition efforts.
“This approach has been difficult to manage because of the unpredictable nature of attrition, and it has challenged our ability to acquire new talent, build diversity in our staff, develop new skills and provide all of the necessary tools to do the job of protecting human health and the environment," Perciasepe wrote in the email. "We can and must make long-term changes to support you and the vital work you do for the American people."
Kellen did not find this argument comforting.
“There’s only so much restructuring you can do,” she told Government Executive. “At a certain point we just can’t do everything we’re supposed to do with the number of employees we have.”
Kellen expects hundreds of employees to accept the separation incentives, but predicted EPA would fall short of its goal.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors will also offer buyout and early retirement incentives to its employees in February.
The agency received “voluntary early retirement authority” that will allow employees at least 50 years old with 20 years of federal service, or any employee with at least 25 years in federal government, to retire at any point through Sept. 30, 2015.
OPM also granted buyout authority to BBG, which would, similar to EPA, provide employees up to $25,000 to separate from the agency. The buyout window opened Jan. 30 and will close Feb. 14. Employees must leave the agency by Feb. 28 and can, if eligible, combine the early retirement and buyout incentives. The buyouts are specifically targeting employees at Voice of America, the International Broadcasting Bureau and a few other offices, though every employee may apply, according to an agency memo obtained by Government Executive.
“Buyouts and early outs are ways to work to help out workforce evolve as we adjust our operations in a challenging fiscal climate and adapt to rapid technology changes while serving our global audience,” said Tish King, a BBG spokeswoman.
King added there was no way to predict how many employees will apply for a buyout, but only 34 workers did so in 2013 during its last buyout opportunity.