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Agencies Offer Accommodations for Feds Affected by Hurricane Dorian

The Office of Personnel Management reminds agencies of options for federal employees in Dorian’s path.

As Hurricane Dorian makes its way up the southeast coast, the Office of Personnel Management reminded agencies of the ways they can support federal workers in affected areas.

OPM issued a memo on Wednesday outlining weather and safety leave options for workers who can’t make it to their worksite, telework policies, evacuation payments to help with travel expenses, and instructions on how employees can donate leave time to co-workers in need of extra time off. 

OPM “would like to remind agencies of the wide range of human resources (HR) flexibilities and procedures currently available to assist federal employees affected by emergency situations,” wrote OPM Acting Director Margaret Weichert.

There are about 345,000 federal workers—more than 12% of the total federal workforce—in Dorian’s likely path through Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina, according to Governing. The majority work for the Veterans’ Affairs and Defense departments, and the  U.S. Postal Service. 

Weather and safety leave is paid time off that can be granted to employees who cannot travel to their workplace and work there safely. Normally, employees with the option to telework cannot receive this leave, but agencies can grant such leave on a case-by-case basis. OPM encourages agencies, “to promote and incorporate telework into their agency emergency planning.” 

Evacuation payments are either advanced, continued or subsidized payments given on a discretionary basis for employees who need to vacate their homes. Recipients can use the money to cover the travel and subsistence expenses during a disaster; the payments are not considered a debt to the federal government. Lastly, the emergency leave transfer program allows federal employees to transfer their annual leave time to employees of their same agency who are affected or have family members affected by a natural disaster and are in need of additional paid time off.  

OPM directed federal workers to the human resources handbook for additional information on accommodations. 

Agencies are making their own adjustments as well. The Postal Service, Veterans’ Affairs Department and Social Security Administration all listed information on closed facilities or reduced services in the affected areas. The VA also posted a hotline for employees to call to learn the operating status of their facilities and other disaster resources. 

Non-emergency personnel were ordered to evacuate the military bases at Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia; the Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot and Marine Corps Air Station in South Carolina; and the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Mayport Naval Station, and Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, Stars and Stripes reported

Despite a shortage of about 2,000 reserve workers in the Federal Emergency Management Agency who serve on the ground during disasters, officials said they have confidence in the government’s ability to respond to the hurricane.