Feds in Louisiana, Mississippi, New York and New Jersey could be able to take extra time off to recover from the storm.
The Office of Personnel Management last week announced that it had established a leave transfer program for federal workers impacted by Hurricane Ida across four states.
Emergency leave transfer programs allow federal employees to donate unused annual leave to a leave bank from which other federal workers may draw to take paid time off to recover from an emergency or natural disaster.
Hurricane Ida made landfall along the Louisiana and Mississippi coast August 29, damaging homes, knocking out the New Orleans electrical grid and causing widespread flooding. As the storm continued north, it produced multiple tornadoes and significant flooding, particularly in New Jersey and New York.
OPM Director Kiran Ahuja announced that her agency would establish a leave transfer program related to the storm in a memo to agencies published Sept. 3. Employees seeking access to emergency leave should reach out to their agencies to apply.
“Employees who are adversely affected and seek to become emergency leave recipients must apply in writing to their agencies,” Ahuja wrote. “An employee who is unable to do so on their own may apply through a personal representative. The [leave transfer program] will be in place to assist approved leave recipients as the need for donated annual leave becomes known.”
Individual agencies are responsible for setting up leave banks for federal employees to donate unused leave to their colleagues in need, assessing the need for donated leave, and for approving the use of donated leave by feds impacted by the storm. Crucially, donated leave can only be used retroactively in some circumstances.
“[Agencies must] educate affected employees that, dependent on agency policy, they may request advanced annual or sick leave, as appropriate or leave without pay, so that they are not forced to use accrued leave before donated annual leave becomes available,” Ahuja wrote. “This is necessary since donated annual leave may only be substituted retroactively for any period of leave without pay or advanced annual or sick leave used because of the emergency; it may not be retroactively substituted for accrued annual or sick leave used because of the emergency.”
Thus far, the emergency leave transfer program applies to federal employees in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and New York. Although the tornadoes that touched down in Maryland and Pennsylvania also caused significant damage, President Biden has not approved emergency declarations in those states.
Last week, OPM offered additional guidance highlighting how agencies may approve weather and safety leave for federal workers unable to work due to the storm, as evacuations and widespread power, internet and cellular outages can inhibit employees’ ability to telework.