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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

Help With Student Loans, Paid Sick Leave for Contractors

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The Office of Personnel Management is giving agencies a March 31 deadline for reporting student loan repayment benefits data for 2015. OPM wants to know how many employees received benefits, the job classification of those employees, and the amount of money they received.

Agencies are authorized to repay certain “federally made, insured, or guaranteed” student loans in order to recruit or retain highly qualified personnel.  

As Kellie Lunney reported in October, agencies have been increasing their investment in the perk, although it remains rarely used.  

Thirty-three agencies awarded more than $58.7 million in student loan repayment benefits to 8,469 federal employees in 2014. That’s more than a 15 percent increase from 2013 in the number of employees receiving the benefit, and an 11 percent boost in agencies’ overall investment in the incentive. Employees at five agencies (Defense, Justice, State, Veterans Affairs, and the Securities and Exchange Commission) accounted for nearly 75 percent of the benefit’s recipients in 2014.

Nine other agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development and Commodities Futures Trading Commission, created student loan repayment programs in 2014, though they did not provide any awards to employees that year.

The average amount of aid provided to federal employees in 2014 was about $7,000.

The Labor Department on Thursday proposed a rule to ensure federal contractors provide their employees with paid sick leave benefits.

The rule stems from Executive Order 13706, which President Obama signed in September to require companies that do business with the government pay employees who need time off for illness, to care for family members or attend to other urgent business affecting their health or wellbeing.

According to a Labor Department fact sheet, the new rule will benefit 437,000 workers who currently receive no sick leave benefits. The order will apply to new contracts and replacements for expiring contracts that result from solicitations issued beginning in January 2017.

“This is very welcome news at a time when more than 43 million workers in the country still cannot earn a single paid sick day,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families in a statement.

For more about the Obama administration’s use of executive orders and how contractors have received them, read Charles Clark’s prior coverage here

(Image via KieferPix/Shutterstock.com)

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