Pay & Benefits Watch Pay & Benefits WatchPay & Benefits Watch
Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

A Student Loan Repayment Inquiry, a New Travel Ban for Feds and More

ARCHIVES
Federal employees are barred from traveling to some neighborhoods of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Federal employees are barred from traveling to some neighborhoods of Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

The Office of Personnel Management is asking agencies to compile their annual reports on student loan repayments made on behalf of federal employees by the end of this month, including an analysis of the programs’ effectiveness.

OPM Director Jeff Pon sent a memo to departments Tuesday outlining the requirements for their student loan repayment reports for the 2017 calendar year. By law, agencies must submit reports each year on student loan repayment programs designed to recruit and retain highly qualified personnel, including information on the number of federal workers receiving the benefit, their job classification and the cost of the program.

Additionally, Pon, who was confirmed to his post by the Senate last week, solicited insight from agency leadership on the effectiveness of their respective student loan programs and ideas that could improve similar programs across the federal government.

“We also invite you to share any additional information regarding best practices, lessons learned, program effectiveness, metrics used to measure program success, business case evaluation factors, program impediments, or other relevant details about your agency’s use of student loan repayments as a recruitment or retention tool,” Pon wrote. “In addition, we encourage you to identify any ways to improve the student loan repayment program on a governmentwide basis.”

Agencies’ reports are due March 31.

Last week, the State Department banned federal employees from traveling to several neighborhoods in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, citing an “ongoing security threat.”

On March 9, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City implemented travel restrictions barring feds from going to Centro, Calica, Gonzalo Guerrero, Quintas del Carmen and Villas del Carmen in the resort town on the Yucatan peninsula. It also advised U.S. citizens to avoid the neighborhoods “until further notice.”

Earlier last week, the embassy had recommended citizens steer clear of Playa del Carmen entirely, but officials later clarified that federal workers would be able to visit the city’s resort areas that are outside of the area cited in the travel alert.

The American consulate in Playa del Carmen also briefly closed last week, but reopened Monday. Last week’s restriction supplemented a ban on federal employees using ferry services between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, which remains in effect “until further notice.”

OPM officials last week encouraged federal employees to participate in the next iteration of the biannual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, which this spring is scheduled for April 28.

A joint effort between OPM and the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the event works with agencies and local law enforcement organizations to collect old and unwanted prescription drugs for appropriate disposal.

Last fall, participants in the 14th take-back day turned in nearly 1 million pounds of unwanted or expired medications across more than 5,000 local events. The Justice Department has a list of confirmed collection locations posted on its website.

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.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec