A worker waits for a new customer at a Witham Health Services drive-through Community Viral Screening center in Indiana on Thursday.

A worker waits for a new customer at a Witham Health Services drive-through Community Viral Screening center in Indiana on Thursday. Darron Cummings / AP

Lead Contractors Association Calls for Leave-Sharing Policy and Telework Guidance

Professional Services Council asks OMB and IRS to provide more direction during coronavirus outbreak. 

A lead trade association called on the Trump administration to provide guidance on telework and to offer leave-sharing flexibilities for federal contractors as they navigate the novel coronavirus. 

The Professional Services Council, which represents over 400 companies that contract with the federal government, wrote a letter to the Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday and a letter to the Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday. The trade association previously said the administration has not done enough to guide the contracting workforce upon which the government has become increasingly reliant. 

“We are writing to request that you issue guidance to allow employers to establish leave sharing programs to aid employees affected by COVID-19 and not subject the employee donating leave to taxation on the donation,” wrote Alan Chvotkin, PSC executive vice president and counsel, to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig. “The IRS has done so in the past and, given the unpredictability and potential severity of the disruption COVID-19 may cause, PSC urges you to do so again.”

Chvotkin noted that federal employees have voluntary leave bank and voluntary leave transfer programs that are established by their agencies and overseen by the Office of Personnel Management. Therefore, “we are asking that private-sector employers and their employees be provided the same flexibilities to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 virus on affected individuals.”

PSC is also asking OMB to “issue immediately clear and comprehensive” guidance on teleworking policies for federal contractors in order to ensure continuity of operations. Although OPM and OMB have issued numerous iterations of guidance encouraging telework for federal employees, many agencies have been slow to implement such policies

“As presidential guidance expands and encourages telework, contract authorization for contractors to telework is not automatic,” PSC President and CEO David Berteau said in a press release. “Contractors can support agency missions without interruption, but leaving telework approval up to individual contracting officers is inefficient, potentially creates confusion, and undermines America’s need to keep the government going.” 

Berteau wrote to acting OMB Director Russell Vought that the agency should publish governmentwide guidance to all of the chief acquisition officers. As NextGov reported on Wednesday, contractors have to follow the stipulations in their agreements unless given guidance from their contracting officers that says contrary, which could present challenges. 

Last Friday, Berteau told Government Executive that in the rapidly changing environment, the federal government thus far “has been very very weak and insufficient” in its communication and guidance to the contracting workforce.

“The government needs to keep going . . . and we’re good at this,” Berteau said. However, “there has to be a recognition of the important roles that contractors play in keeping that going.”