OPM details pandemic emergency paid leave program

This special leave will be available through the end of the fiscal year or until the $570 million fund is exhausted, OPM documents say.

hand of medical staff in blue glove injecting coronavirus covid-19 vaccine in vaccine syringe to arm muscle of african american man for coronavirus covid-19 immunization  M By Mongkolchon Akesin shutterstock ID: 1726888900

The Office of Personnel Management released details on Thursday about the use of the emergency paid leave for feds signed into law in the American Rescue Plan in March.

This special leave will be available through Sept. 30, 2021 or until the $570 million fund is exhausted, OPM documents say.

Applicants are assuming some risk in agreeing to take the leave, according to OPM documents. Feds will have to agree in writing that they will be responsible for any special leave used if the fund runs out before their agency is compensated by OPM. In such cases, employees will have to use other paid leave or pay back their agency, OPM said.

Agencies will submit claims for reimbursement to OPM, which will process their claims on a first-come, first-served basis. OPM will be administering the fund for most feds, but those in the Transportation Security Agency, Federal Aviation Administration or Veterans Affairs Agencies will be covered by other leave systems, the guidance says.

Congress capped the leave at $1,400 a week. Feds covered by Title 5 annual and sick leave are eligible for the pandemic leave, as well as postal service, postal regulatory commission and certain courts employees. Feds can ask agencies to retroactively change leave they've already taken to this emergency leave if they're eligible.

The law authorizes 15 weeks of paid time off for medically required quarantine, time off with COVID-19 symptoms, as well as taking time to care for children doing virtual learning, quarantining family members or elderly family members or family members with disabilities whose care isn't accessible because of the pandemic. The fund can be tapped for time taken to obtain vaccinations, although OPM has encouraged agencies to offer administrative leave for getting the vaccine.

Feds using the leave will have to provide documentation to their agencies. They won't be able to use this emergency leave concurrently with other types of leave, and they aren't first required to exhaust other leave before tapping into this pandemic leave. Use of the fund will affect the annuity level of feds when they retire.