VERA/VSIP Update

Dues-paying members of NTEU Chapter 280 received a number of members-only emails detailing various aspects of the voluntary early retirement authority (VERA)/voluntary separation incentive payment (VSIP) process over the past several months. By now most of you, including the non-dues paying employees have learned many of the details we gave early access to for members.

The application period for VERAs and/or VSIPs is currently open. All applications must be submitted by July 26, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. To apply, visit this link.

Due to problems accessing the federal eOPF system used by EPA for personnel records, deadlines may be extended, but do not count on it. The agency is currently refusing to extend the application deadline even though you need the eOPF system to get information necessary for the application. NTEU is pushing the agency to change its position and extend the application deadline.

 

House Committee Passes EPA Budget Bill

Today the U.S. House of Representatives Interior & Environment Committee passed a funding bill for EPA, the Department of the Interior, and related agencies. The bill provides EPA a bit more than $7.5 billion, a 6.6% cut. Coupled with the 1% cut for fiscal year 2017, EPA would be down 7.6% if the bill passes and is signed into law.

There some question about whether the EPA funding bill will pass Congress. Legislators are still discussing an "omnibus" spending bill, that would lump all the non-defense agencies together. No telling what would come out of that process.

We'll keep you posted!

New Electronic Transit Enrollment Form

Click to visit EPA HQ's new transit subsidy application and renewal form.

Click to visit EPA HQ's new transit subsidy application and renewal form.

EPA finally is doing away with that cumbersome PDF transit benefits enrollment/recertification form, in favor of a web-based form.

While the form has not been officially rolled out agency wide, it can nonetheless be accessed and completed by clicking here. Submitting this form is the same as submitting the old PDF-based form.

Note that you will need to sign into EPA's Intranet, however, to access the form.

Good? Budget News...

Politico is reporting that the U.S. House of Representatives' Interior & Environment Appropriations Subcommittee "finalized a fiscal 2018 Interior and Environment spending package" with only "slight reduction in funds from current levels...."  Politico reports that the bill would give agencies covered by the spending bill, including EPA, "$31.5 billion for fiscal year 2018 compared to $32.37 billion in current funding."

While cuts to EPA's programs are likely to negatively impact environmental protection....

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Metro Fares Increase - Time to Recalculate Transit Subsidy

This week Metro raised rail and bus fares.

According to WTOP, "Rail fares would rise 10 cents at rush hour and 25 cents off-peak, including an increase for the maximum rush-hour fare to $6 and the maximum off-peak fare to $3.85. Parking fees would rise 10 cents. Bus fares will rise 25 cents, to $2. ... Express Bus fares would rise to $4.25 and airport express buses to Dulles and BWI-Marshall would rise to $7.25." It will now cost a minimum of $2.25 to ride Metrorail during peak hours and a minimum of $2 for off-peak trips.

Click the image to download the transit subsidy form.

Click the image to download the transit subsidy form.

We reached out to management on whether or not EPA will automatically include the higher fares in your transit subsidy. Unsurprisingly, it will not. The burden to ensure you're receiving the correct reimbursement under the federal transit subsidy is on you, the employee.

Download this form, fill it out reflecting the higher fares on your commute, and submit it to group_transit@epa.gov.

The cut-off date for increasing your transit subsidy benefits is the 21st of each month. Provided you submit your form before July 21, you new subsidy will take effect in August. If you miss the 21st, your subsidy will not take effect until the following month, in the case of our example, September.

Congressional Letter in Support of Feds

Yesterday, 102 Members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), strongly opposing the assaults on federal pay and retirement contained in the administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget proposal.

Calling the administration’s proposals that impact the take-home pay and retirement benefits for current federal employees and retirees “destructive,” the legislators asked both congressional leaders to block any effort to bring such proposals to the House floor for votes. They pointed out that no other group has been asked to sacrifice more for deficit reduction than the federal workforce.

Federal employees have already been deprived of $182 billion in pay and benefits. The FY 2018 budget would add another $149 billion in cuts.

We appreciate these members’ support in fighting to stop pay and retirement cuts, and for holding Congress accountable to keep its promises to its workforce and retirees. Clearly, these members of Congress recognize the valuable service provided by our members to the nation. NTEU will continue to work with these members to “oppose any effort to balance the budget on the backs of public servants,” as the legislators wrote in their letter

To learn more about the budget and legislation, please visit the NTEU legislative action center.

 

Administrator Pruitt to Testify on Proposed Cuts at EPA

According to Politico, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will testify before the House Appropriations Interior-EPA subcommittee on Thursday, June 15 at 1 p.m. The Committee's website confirms this here.

According to Politico, "appropriators have already indicated they will not cut away EPA's budget as severely as the White House's proposal, particularly on state grants and popular programs cleaning up the Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay and other regions."

Of course, even if the cuts are half as bad as what is proposed, a 15% cut could be devastating to EPA's programs, personnel, and ultimately environmental protection.

POSTPONED: Discussion with EPA's Scientific Integrity Official

***DUE TO AN ILLNESS, DR. GRIFO HAS POSTPONED TUESDAY'S DISCUSSION***

original message: 

NTEU 280 encourages its members to join EPA's Scientific Integrity Official, Dr. Francesca T. Grifo, to discuss scientific integrity issues that concern them. The discussion occurs June 6, from 3:30-4:30 p.m. EDT in Room 5020, William Jefferson Clinton North Building.
 
In addition to Dr. Grifo, EPA’s Whistleblower Ombudsman, Steven Alderton, will also be there to discuss his role and share information related to the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.

For more details, visit the Intranet announcement here.

Cutting Federal Pension System Would Add to Nation’s Retirement Crisis

The administration’s forthcoming budget proposal for 2018 is expected to include devastating cuts to the retirement benefits of federal employees, marking yet another unwarranted attack on middle-class civil servants that the National Treasury Employees Union will strongly oppose.
 
The proposed changes will cut the pay of federal employees by increasing their retirement contributions repeatedly for consecutive years. This would easily negate....

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Congressional Review Act

Roll Call ran an interesting article today on the Congressional Review Act and its possible use beyond the CRA's normal 60-legislative-day limit. Recall that the CRA allows Congress to veto an agency's rule before the rule goes into effect, provided that Congress acts to veto it before the end of 60 legislative days.

The article notes....

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What's Better Than Chocolate? Paid Parental Leave.

This Mother’s Day, what’s better than flowers and chocolate?

Paid parental leave.

Every day, we ask our mothers to do more than their fair share. Now let’s give them the respect they deserve and the time they need to stay healthy, bond with their children, and be successful at home and in the workplace.

Join NTEU in standing behind the mothers who are also dedicated federal employees.

Visit NTEU.org to support paid parental leave.

Photos from Today's Thank-You Event

Nice to see so many people here on a Friday when many people are teleworking or on their compressed work schedule day off. Here are a few of the photos, courtesy of NTEU....

Pioneering Fulltime Telework at EPA (Part 2 of 2)

Since my first installment of Pioneering Fulltime Telework at the EPA back in October of 2016, there have been a lot of changes across the federal government. For the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is likely that we will be doing more with less in the years to come – smaller budgets, smaller staff, and a smaller physical footprint.

Thomas Edison said: “The value of an idea lies in the using of it.” Fulltime telework has value – actually a lot of value – if it is used. The smallest expansion of fulltime telework at the EPA could save millions of taxpayer dollars while meeting and exceeding the business needs of the Agency.

Imagine if EPA encouraged just 20% of its workforce to fulltime telework, it would slash nearly 1% of its annual budget – some $45.6 million!....

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Shutdown Averted: Congress Passes Spending Bill

From NTEU National.....

The Senate today followed the House in approving a [spending package] to fund the federal government though the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year. The president is expected to sign the measure before funding expires Friday night. Passage of this bipartisan spending bill eliminates the threat of another government shutdown for the next five months.

While NTEU is pleased that the $18 billion in cuts originally proposed were not part of the final agreement, many federal agencies remain underfunded and understaffed after several years of cuts and inadequate funding. 

As the debate shifts to the fiscal 2018 congressional budget, NTEU is pressing for adequate and stable funding for the federal government so that agencies have the resources they need and federal employees are not left anxious with another shutdown countdown.

In the passed spending bill, the Environmental Protection Agency received an $81.4 million decrease from fiscal year 2016 (FY16). EPA was operating on a continuing resolution, allowing it to spend at FY16 levels. The $81.4 million budget cut amounts to approximately a 1% spending reduction.

Potomac Yard Stress Reduction Seminar

stress reduction intersection.jpg

NTEU, AFGE, and EPA’s Headquarters' Employee Counseling and Assistance Program (ECAP) are sponsoring a second "Alternative Methods to Reducing Stress," a free seminar in Observance of Stress Awareness Month, this one in EPA's Potomac Yard offices.

Date:  May 4, 2017
Time:  12:15 - 2:00 p.m.
Location:  Potomac Yard Room S-5261

You do not need to take leave to attend, or make up the time at the end of the day for this seminar when combined with your lunch period. We recommend, however, that you inform your supervisor you will be away for the entire time.

If your supervisor has any questions about the authority to allow attendance for the entire time, show her/him this article or suggest s/he contact Krysti Corbett in EPA's Labor & Employee Relations, the advisers to management.

For more information, please contact Wayne White, at 202-564-7914 or send an email to white.wayned@epa.gov.

Government Shutdown Looms...Again

Roll Call is reporting that another government shutdown and furloughs may be in the works.

The article notes that "congressional negotiators had been making good progress but the White House has not been constructive." The story quotes staffers who say that it will be difficult, given the state of negotiations, "to meet the April 28 funding deadline and thus a short-term continuing resolution would be needed."

But Democratic leaders, ....

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Stressed About Everything That's Going On?

stress reduction intersection.jpg

NTEU, AFGE, and EPA’s Headquarters' Employee Counseling and Assistance Program (ECAP) are sponsoring "Alternative Methods to Reducing Stress," a free seminar in Observance of Stress Awareness Month.

Date:  April 25, 2017
Time:  Noon - 1:30 p.m.
Location:  William Jefferson Clinton South Building, Room 5213

With your 30 minute lunch period, management approved an additional 60 minutes for the seminar.  Therefore, you do not need to take leave to attend or make up the time at the end of the day. We recommend, however, that you inform your supervisor you will be away for the entire 90 minutes. If s/he has any questions about the authority, show her/him this article or suggest s/he contact Krysti Corbett in EPA's Labor & Employee Relations, the advisers to management.

For more information, please contact Wayne White, at 202-564-7914 or send an email to white.wayned@epa.gov.