Patrick Semansky/AP

Washington-Area Feds Face Another Obstacle to Returning to the Office: Metro Upgrades

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

The Office of Personnel Management on Monday encouraged federal agencies in the Washington, D.C., area to be particularly mindful as they consider reopening following the coronavirus pandemic, as another large section of the Metrorail system will be shut down for major upgrades.

Between now and Sept. 7, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority has closed all nine Orange and Silver line stations west of Ballston as part of its multi-year platform improvement project. In addition, 16 other stations across the system remain closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

In guidance to agency heads, acting OPM Director Michael Rigas encouraged officials to continue to extend maximum telework and other workplace flexibilities to employees whose commutes may be impacted by the many station closures as they consider reopening offices in accordance with the White House's three-phase guidelines "for opening up America again."

"As each agency prepares its framework for reopening the federal government, the WMATA project should be taken into consideration in your plans for those employees located in the Washington, D.C., area," Rigas wrote. "As we move through the three-phase process, OPM is strongly encouraging agencies to allow affected employees in the Washington, D.C., area to utilize various workplace flexibilities throughout the WMATA project, including telework and alternative work schedules."

Meanwhile, officials with the federal government's 401(k)-style retirement savings program on Monday announced that the Thrift Savings Plan will soon offer additional lifecycle funds, which shift investments to more stable portfolios as participants get closer to retirement, to more closely match federal workers' anticipated retirement dates.

Currently, the TSP offers L funds in 10-year increments, and participants are encouraged to choose one closest to when they expect to reach retirement age. In 2017, the board that governs the TSP approved a plan to switch to offering lifecycle funds in five-year increments, a move that puts the program in line with the vast majority of private sector 401(k) offerings.

Beginning July 1, the available L funds will include: L 2025, L 2030, L 2035, L 2040, L 2045, L 2050, L 2055, L 2060 and L 2065. Once they are available, current participants will be able to shift their investments to another fund closer to their expected retirement date if they so choose, and new participants will continue to invest automatically in the L Fund "most appropriate for their age."

July 1 also marks the end of the L 2020 Fund, as participants in that portfolio will officially shift into the L Income Fund, the most conservative lifecycle offering and the one designed for those who have already begun making withdrawals.