Agencies Request Funds for Emergency Boosts to Telework, Overtime and Hiring

Miljan Mladenovic/

The $46 billion White House request would also help bring home feds stationed abroad in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The White House has requested nearly $46 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, with much of the spending influx going toward boosting telework capacity, hiring supplemental workers and repatriating employees currently serving overseas. 

In a letter to lawmakers, acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought said the Trump administration is “driving a whole-of-government response” to the outbreak but would need additional resources “to ensure full operational capacity.” Vought stressed the request was only to enhance agencies’ abilities to carry out their missions and was separate from economic stimulus and hardship relief packages. 

The departments of Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Transportation and Veterans Affairs as well the Environmental Protection Agency, General Service Administration, Office of Personnel Management, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration and National Archives and Records Administration all requested millions of dollars to boost IT and capacity for employees to work remotely. Several agencies have already run into issues from an unprecedented surge in teleworking, including a lack of devices, insufficient software licenses and overwhelmed networks. OMB said the funds would go toward increasing hardware (including laptops, phones and tablets), boosting cybersecurity, purchasing more software licenses and expanding network capacities. 

USDA plans to boost temporary staff and overtime due to an increased demand for loans, while Transportation reported it would boost staff hours. Customs and Border Protection asked for funding to surge employees at the southwest border. Education and HHS are preparing to bring on contract workers if its own staff members become incapacitated due to contracting COVID-19.

Most DHS components requested funding to build up a six-month supply of personal protective equipment. Defense, State and VA are also looking to boost their personal protective equipment reserves. 

State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, USDA and DHS have all requested funding to help bring home employees currently stationed overseas. USDA is looking to repatriate 110 Foreign Agricultural Service employees and at least 300 dependents, while State is expecting to bring back 10% of its U.S. citizen workforce stationed abroad. 

USDA, HHS, DHS, Interior, Transportation, VA, GSA and SSA also plan to increase overtime use to keep up with demand for services during the pandemic. 

GSA plans to help agencies throughout government obtain services for deep cleanings and visitor screenings, as well as hand sanitizer and wipes. It asked for $200 million to support “unforeseen circumstances necessary to support government-wide space or space management requirements.” OMB requested $3 billion for an “unanticipated needs” account which it would use to disburse funds to agencies throughout government. OPM said it would launch short-term methods for employees to submit retirement application processes to supplement its normal paper-based operations.