The offer exceeds one recently provided by the Agriculture Department for a move to Kansas City.
The Interior Department is offering employees impacted by its relocation efforts 25% of their base salaries as an incentive to move from Washington, D.C., to western states, seeking to follow through on its pledge to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.
The Bureau of Land Management workers will also receive a “permanent change of station” allowance, which will let them either accept 60 days of temporary housing and related living expenses or take an agency-funded house-hunting trip to their new location before reporting there. The announcement comes just days after the acting head of BLM told Congress his goal was to not lose a single employee as the bureau relocates most of the employees in its D.C. headquarters to western states.
Interior is planning to relocate about 250 Washington-based BLM employees, including 27 who will serve at the agency’s new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colorado. About 220 employees will receive relocation orders to other BLM offices in western states. Sixty-one employees will remain in D.C.
Employees will receive notices next week of their pending relocations, but BLM will not yet provide any report date or require any response from those workers.
The letters will only “notify each employee as to whether his or her job will be geographically relocated to a BLM office in the western U.S. or in some cases that the position has been transferred to a state office to better serve the agency’s need,” said Russell Newell, an Interior spokesman.
As part of the department’s effort to retain all employees impacted by the relocations, it has restricted hiring both at BLM and across the department. BLM instituted an “internal hiring control” on Aug. 23, Newell said, to give agency employees who do not wish to relocate “priority consideration” for vacancies in the D.C. area. It will remain in effect until BLM employees find new placements or agency management decides to end it. Interior has also implemented hiring controls across the department to give impacted and qualified BLM employees the opportunity for “non-competitive placement” in vacancies throughout Washington.
Interior has not yet determined if it will offer early retirement or buyouts to employees who refuse their relocation mandates, Newell said.
William Perry Pendley, the senior official currently serving as BLM director, said at a House hearing earlier this week Interior was taking great pains to ensure no employees are forced to leave.
“Our desire is to not lose a single employee,” Pendley said. He added, however, that BLM has conducted no analysis to determine how many employees will actually leave, aside from a “rough estimate” based on historical data suggesting 25% of impacted employees would retire or separate from the agency.
He said in his time at BLM he has been “mightily impressed” with the agency’s career staff.
“I could not be more pleased with their work or their performance,” Pendley said. “I do not want to lose a single one of them. I’m not trying to drain the swamp, I’m trying to make it more possible for them to do their job.”
BLM plans to make Employee Assistance Program counselors available to impacted staff and their families, and both EAP experts and human resources personnel will meet one-on-one with impacted workers to “be responsive to their needs.” Those who do move, Pendley said, will benefit from a lower cost of living, shorter commutes, better access to recreational areas and “more fulfilling jobs.”
Interior is offering a larger incentive than the Agriculture Department, which is in the process of relocating two research offices to Kansas City. USDA will provide all employees who accept their relocation orders with a financial incentive equal to one month’s salary, and the department will allow relocating employees to work remotely for several months. Employees who accept the incentive must remain at Agriculture for one year. USDA will also offer “a limited number” of employees who decline to relocate buyouts of $10,000.
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