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

An Agency Curtails Telework, Annual Charitable Giving Campaign Ends and More


The Agriculture Department issued a new rule last week that will significantly reduce employees’ ability to work remotely.

According to a departmental regulation released Jan. 4 by the agency’s Office of Human Resources Management, feds approved for telework now will only be able to work remotely for two days per pay period, or roughly four times per month.

The new rule scales back a policy implemented during the Obama administration allowing unlimited telework for Agriculture employees.

“Telework has the ability to produce tangible savings and other benefits, but its use must be balanced to ensure there are no negative impacts on the ability of the department to achieve its mission and provide high quality customer service,” officials said in the regulation.

The rule takes effect immediately, with a 30-day phase-in process. The policies and procedures surrounding the eligibility and approval process for telework were not altered in the new regulation.

There are just two days left before the annual charity giving drive at federal agencies reaches a close, and organizers are encouraging a round of last-minute donations.

The 2017 Combined Federal Campaign, which began Oct. 2, allows federal employees to donate to a variety of charities directly through their respective agencies. This year marks the first year that federal retirees can donate to charity through a deduction from their annuity. Employees also can pledge their time via volunteer hours.

Pledges made before the Jan. 12 deadline through a fed’s payroll will be deducted over the course of this year. Officials with the CFC for the Washington, D.C., region stressed in a statement that it is not too late to donate—OPM last summer delayed the campaign from its traditional September-to-December schedule.

“Through the 2017 [local campaign], federal employees and retirees have already contributed more than $30 million and nearly 40,000 volunteer hours to help those in need,” said Vince Micone, chairman of the coordinating committee that oversees the CFC for the National Capital Area. “I would like to extend gratitude to each participant and remind the federal community that there’s still time to pledge if they have not done so yet.”

With the recent turnover of the calendar year, officials at the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement savings program are taking care of some housekeeping for federal workers and retirees.

Last week, Thrift Savings Plan officials said that withdrawals processed on the final two business days of 2017—Dec. 28 and 29—will be considered taxable income for 2018, not for last year. Such transactions will be included in tax forms that will be issued by the end of January 2019. On the other hand, taxable loan distributions issued by Dec. 29 will apply to enrollees’ 2017 taxes.

The TSP will post workers and retirees' annual IRS Form 1099-Rs to their online accounts and mail them by Jan. 31.

Erich Wagner is a staff correspondent covering pay, benefits and other federal workforce issues. He joined Government Executive in the spring of 2017 after extensive experience writing about state and local issues in Maryland and Virginia, most recently as editor-in-chief of the Alexandria Times. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.

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