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OPM Announces Annual Giving Drive, and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

The Office of Personnel Management announced last week that the federal government’s annual charity fundraiser, the Combined Federal Campaign, will run from Sept. 21 through Jan. 15, 2021.

The annual drive for federal employees to make charitable donations has seen a steady decline in performance for around a decade. In a memo to agency heads announcing this year’s campaign, acting OPM Director Michael Rigas said that in 2019, the drive raised $86.4 million in donations from federal workers, which marks a decrease from the $93 million raised in 2018.

Rigas acknowledged that the annual campaign comes shortly after OPM fielded a special solicitation to raise money for people negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which raised $2.6 million.

“Thank you for all that support of the local, national and international charities in the CFC and the people we serve,” he wrote. “However, the needs continue.”

Rigas encouraged agency leaders to take an active role in encouraging employees to contribute money or volunteer hours as part of the campaign, or to participate by serving on local federal coordinating committees.

“Your active and visible leadership is critical to a successful campaign,” Rigas wrote. “With your help, we can assure those campaign workers in your organization reach every federal employee to let them know how they can make a monetary contribution and pledge volunteer time to support organizations that help people in need. This is important since employees are more likely to participate in the program if they are asked.”

Rigas reminded officials that federal workers can no longer donate to the campaign with cash contributions, although agencies may continue to hold special events like bake sales to raise awareness for the charity drive.

“The new CFC Giving Mobile App replaces cash fundraising at these events and allows federal employees to make one-time donations via credit/debit card or bank transfer,” he wrote.

In retirement benefits news, at the monthly meeting of the board that administers the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement savings program, officials said that tens of thousands of participants have taken withdrawals authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act since they gained the ability to do so last month.

As of August 12, nearly 33,000 participants in the Thrift Savings Plan had taken the new CARES Act withdrawal for a total of more than $800 million. An additional 640 participants chose to suspend TSP loan payments until the end of 2020, while nearly 1,600 took out CARES Act loans in excess of the typical $50,000 cap.

Since the implementation of CARES Act withdrawals, TSP Director of Participant Services Tee Ramos said that hardship withdrawals have returned to seasonal levels.

“Hardship withdrawals are down 26% from last month, and back to normal levels,” Ramos said. “Our participants are actively using the loans and withdrawals from the CARES Act, and it seems to have been very beneficial. They’re also actively calling [our call center] and asking about them—we’re seeing thousands of calls a month on this topic.”