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How Feds Can Contribute to the Harvey Recovery Effort

U.S. Border Patrol Riverine agents assist in rescue and recovery efforts in the greater Houston area in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. U.S. Border Patrol Riverine agents assist in rescue and recovery efforts in the greater Houston area in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Michael Lerma/CBP

As officials at all levels of government continue to respond to the impacts of Hurricane Harvey on east Texas and Louisiana, public employee groups are contributing their own resources to the effort and providing outlets for feds not directly engaged in the response to help as well.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said around 7,400 of its member live or work within the area affected by the storm. In an email, AFSME President Lee Saunders said that many of those union members are serving their community without regard for the safety of themselves or their homes, whether they helped to evacuate prison inmates or aided in the rescue of residents from flooded homes.

Saunders encouraged people to make donations to the AFSCME Fallen Heroes Fund, which he said will be used to help provide both immediate relief in the form of food, water and temporary housing, as well as long-term rebuilding and recovery efforts.

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The National Treasury Employees Union announced Monday that it is pledging up to $30,000 in matching funds to complement donations to the Federal Employees Education and Assistance Fund, an independent nonprofit that provides emergency financial assistance and scholarships to civilian federal employees and their families. The Office of Personnel Management said Monday that more than 59,000 federal workers from 45 agencies could be impacted by the storm and the resultant flooding.

“The need for assistance is significant as thousands of employees faced with severe flooding and property damage will have to rebuild and recover from this devastating storm,” NTEU President Tony Reardon said in a statement. “When crisis hits, federal employees are often first responders for millions of Americans. NTEU stands with those who help our nation in so many vital ways.”

The union said it will match all donations made to the NTEU fund at FEEA up to $30,000. Donors can also contribute by mail, with checks made out to “FEEA-NTEU Fund” and sent to FEEA Headquarters, 1641 Prince St., Alexandria, Va. 22314. Employees affected by the storm who need assistance can access applications on the FEEA website or by calling 202-554-0007.

OPM announced Wednesday that it has authorized a special solicitation for agencies to collect donations from federal workers to aid in relief efforts. The program will allow employees to make check or cash donations through their departments to charities assisting in storm response and recovery outside of the traditional Combined Federal Campaign.

"Many Federal employees have expressed a desire to assist those in need in the region affected by this storm," said OPM Acting Director Kathleen McGettigan. "As such, I am authorizing department and agency heads to allow a special solicitation of Federal employees at the workplace to support the victims of this disaster."

Agencies' fundraising efforts must conclude by Sept. 29.

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association also announced this week that it is providing financial assistance to Harvey victims through a fund administered by FEEA. NARFE members who have been injured, incurred property damage or have other financial needs as a result of a natural disaster are eligible for $500 cash grants from the association’s disaster fund.

NARFE President Richard Thissen encouraged people to make tax-deductible donations to NARFE’s FEEA fund, and noted that members have donated more than $458,000 since it was established following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

“The devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in communities across Texas and Louisiana is heartbreaking, and our thoughts go out to all those affected,” Thissen said. “NARFE thanks our nation’s federal employees for their exceptional efforts to predict the storm’s path and intensity, save lives, care for those in trouble and help rebuild these communities in the coming weeks and months.”

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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