Industry Group Urges Congress to Extend CARES Clause to Reimburse Government Contractors

Ricardo Reitmeyer/

The Professional Services Council called on Congress to extend Section 3610 authority in order to sustain the contracting workforce in a letter to leadership Thursday. 

Congress should extend compensation assistance related to the coronavirus pandemic for the federal contracting community, a key industry group said in a letter to Congressional leadership Thursday. 

The Professional Services Council, an industry organization representing businesses that support federal agencies, called on Congress to extend Section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, ACT until December 31—or the end of the pandemic, whichever comes later. 

While federal workers are getting paid regardless of whether they can access their offices, compensation for contractors who both cannot go into the office and cannot do their work remotely is not guaranteed. The CARES Act money enables federal agencies to reimburse contractors so that they can pay these employees. 

“Section 3610 is essential to preserving the cohort of highly skilled workers and key personnel, many with high-level security clearances, that has taken decades to assemble,” David Berteau, president and CEO of PSC, wrote in the letter. 

Berteau told Nextgov these highly skilled workers may move to the private sector permanently if they don’t get paid through the pandemic. 

“It’s not in the government’s interest to lose the access to those people,” Berteau said. “Even with high unemployment rates really skilled people can go to work somewhere else pretty quickly, and then we’d never get them back into the government.”

Currently, the CARES Act funding that helps keep the contracting personnel in a ready state, meaning they are available to return to work if an agency deems that work of a high enough priority, is set to run out September 30. But with no coronavirus vaccine in sight, it’s unclear whether the workforce will be able to return to the office by that time. 

A failure to reimburse contractors past the September 30 deadline would destabilize the contracting workforce in a similar to recent government shutdowns, according to the letter, because it could also lead to furloughs in layoffs.  

PSC urged Congress to add an extension of Section 3610 to the next available piece of legislation. Berteau said he hopes the extension will be attached to the next coronavirus stimulus package—pointing to the bill that is currently being marked up by the Senate—that makes it through both houses of Congress. 

The letter also highlighted problems with divvying up funds from the CARES Act, indicating guidance from federal agencies hasn’t always been timely. But the letter stressed that at the end of the day, making sure funding continues at all is critical. 

“You can’t wait until after October 1 to extend it,” Berteau said. “Because if you get a gap, you’re going to end up losing people one way or the other.”