January 16, 2019 – Update 2 for CPSC Furloughed Employees

Dear CPSC Staff,

I wanted to reach out to you during this prolonged lapse in appropriations to let you know I am thinking of you and that I am deeply concerned about the challenges you are facing at this time.   I know the extended shutdown has placed unexpected burdens on you and your family, and I continue to hope that the issue will be resolved and we can all return to fulfilling CPSC’s important mission.   During this difficult period, I have been reminded each and every day of the valuable contributions you all make. 

As the resolution continues to remain uncertain, I wanted to provide you with some updated information to supplement communications you have already received from the Human Resource team.   I hope you find the following information useful.

Ann Marie

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Resources: EAP/Financial

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available  to support you and provided at no charge to CPSC employees and theirimmediate family members. The EAP can help   provide counseling and referral  to  appropriate resources  for issues such  as emotional  distress, health concerns and money/credit management. The EAP is available 24 hours/seven days a week toll free at: 1-800-222-0364. Additionally, EAP provides online information. You can visit www.worklife4you.com, and use CPSC as your screen name and password to log in.  In addition, OPM has resource tools and templates available on the OPM Furlough Information webpage: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/furlough-guidance/#url=Shutdown-Furlough to help you manage through the lapse period. Many banks, other financial institutions, local businesses, and phone service providers have posted information about making accommodations for federal employees impacted by the lapse.  Please check with your individual banks and financial institutions or phone service providers regarding possible accommodations.

 

Pay and Benefits Fact Sheet

Attached is OPM’s updated Fact Sheet: Pay and Benefits Information for Employees Affected by the Lapse in Appropriations. It provides information on pay, leave, unemployment claims, and federal benefits. The Office of Human Resources (EXRM) is available to answer questions during the furlough, if you have questions on pay and benefits, please contact them at: hrmanagement@cpsc.gov or 301-504-7218.

 

Update on Unemployment Claims

Please read the information previously sent to you regarding Unemployment Insurance and the resources available on the OPM and DOL. There is one important item that I want to share with you.  During this difficult time the Unemployment Offices in Maryland, Virginia, and DC are suspending their requirement for Federal Employees to look for work during the furlough.  Typically this is a requirement for benefits but since this is an unusual situation, UI offices have suspended this requirement for furloughed Federal Employees. 

 

Restoration of Annual Leave

Many of you have asked about the restoration of annual leave for employees who were scheduled to be on annual leave from December 24, 2018 – January 4, 2019. OPM and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have determined that a lapse in appropriation qualifies as an exigency of the public business for purposes of annual leave restoration.  Therefore, as long as the annual leave was properly scheduled in advance (prior to November 24th), CPSC will restore any annual leave that was forfeited because of the lapse in appropriations—regardless of whether the affected employees were furloughed or excepted from the furlough.

 

W-2s Available in Employee Express

The 2018 W-2s are now available in Employee Express for viewing and printing.  If you have elected to have electronic W-2s, you will not receive a hard copy in the mail.  Hard copy W-2s are in the process of being printed and prepared for mailing.  Payroll anticipates mailing to be completed by January 22nd or sooner as printing is completed. 

Reminder: IRS Free File is available for individuals with Adjusted Gross Income of $66,000 or less. Prepare and file your taxes the fast, safe and free way: www.IRS.gov/freefile.

Combined Federal Campaign (CFC)

All contributions from employees who elected to contribute to the CFC for 2019 will be suspended during the furlough. Contributions will resume when we return to work.

 

Back Pay after Furlough Ends

On Thursday, January 10, the Senate passed The Government Employee Fair Treatment Act (S. 24) that would guarantee all federal employees would be fully compensated once the ongoing lapse in funding concludes.  The Senate unanimously passed the bill, which stipulates that furloughed federal employees will be paid retroactively as soon as possible after the lapse ends.  On January 11, the House of Representatives also voted to pass the legislation.  The President has indicated he would sign the bill into law.

 

Return to Work

As a reminder, once  a continuing resolution or an  FY 2019  appropriation has been enacted and signed by the President, you willreturn to work on your next regular duty day. You can check the status of the Government's operations at OPM's website(www.opm.gov), as well as through media broadcasts.

 

Future Updates and Communications

We will continue to provide updates and information via email and on www.cpsc.gov, as appropriate. When a shutdown furlough goes beyond 30 days, agencies must treat it as a second shutdown furlough and issue another furlough notice. If the shutdown continues this week, we will send out the new furlough notice to your personal email address. You will need to reply to the email to indicate receipt. 

Fact Sheet - Pay and Benefits Information
 

 

January 9, 2019 – Update 1 for CPSC Furloughed Employees

Pay Check for Pay Period 1 (December 23rd  – January 5th)

Timesheets were submitted to our payroll provider on Monday with all normal work hours for employees coded to unpaid furlough pay codes. No payments will be deposited to employee bank accounts (both excepted and non-excepted employees) this Friday, January 11th. An amendment in webTA will be required to initiate any change to the pay codes submitted for pay period 1. If the shutdown ends and retroactive pay is approved, payroll will immediately issue guidance to CPSC that includes the earliest transmission date of an out-of-cycle paycheck for our employees. This payment date will depend on when in the pay cycle the shutdown ends and we return to work. We will provide updates as soon as information is available. You will receive a leave and earnings statement in Employee Express as you normally would that documents the unpaid furlough time for pay period 1.

Unemployment Benefits

This is a reminder that furloughed employees are eligible to apply for unemployment benefits.  Employees who wish to file should do so with the State Unemployment Office that correlates with your official duty station. For example, if you work at CPSC Headquarters in Bethesda or Rockville, you will file for Unemployment with the Division of Unemployment Insurance for the state of Maryland.  Please be advised, however, if funding resumes in the near future, or if Congress authorizes back-pay, which it historically has done, you would be required to pay back any unemployment benefits you received.  There is more detailed information on this topic at OPM’s website,https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/furlough-guidance/#url=Unemployment-Insurance-Resources  and at the Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance website, https://oui.doleta.gov/unemploy/

NOTE:  When you submit your Unemployment Claim you will need to provide them with as much information as possible. This includes:

  • The Federal Identification Code (FIC) for CPSC : 5410001
  • Attach a copy of your most recent SF 50 or submit copies of your Earnings and Leave Statements (available through Employee Express)
  • The SF-8 form provided to you with your furlough notice

Benefits and Open Season Elections

Please be assured that your health benefits will continue during the lapse.  Further, for those of you who may have changed enrollment or enrolled during the recent open season for health benefits, your enrollments have been completed.  If anyone has a life changing event (“LCE”), such as the birth of a child, requiring any changes in your benefits enrollment code, please contact EXRM at HRManagement@cpsc.gov.

Here are a few additional updates regarding Federal Benefits:

1)    For current employees, enrollment in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program continues for up to a year in a non-pay status, and the government continues to pay its share of the contribution.  The effective date of an open season enrollment change will still be Jan. 6, 2019.

2)    Coverage under the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance program continues for a year for those in a non-pay status, without cost to the employee.

3)    Health care expenses covered under flexible spending accounts will not be reimbursed until the employee returns to a pay status.  Eligible dependent care expenses incurred during the non-pay status may be reimbursed up to whatever balance is in the employee's dependent care account, as long as the expenses incurred during the non-pay status allow the employee (or employee's spouse if married) to work, look for work, or attend school full-time.  Coverage under the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program continues as long as premiums are paid.  If Long Term Care Partners, which manages the program, does not receive any premiums for three consecutive pay periods, they will begin directly billing the enrollee.  Coverage under the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) will continue, but employees will get a direct bill for past due premiums if no premium is paid for two consecutive pay periods.

4)    For information on the effect of furloughs on your Thrift Savings Plan account, please refer to the attached fact sheet from the Thrift Savings Plan.  You can make inter-fund transfers of your existing account balance during the furlough period, and you may be entitled to make up contributions when you return to a pay status.  You can request an in-service withdrawal if you are age 59 ½ or older or if you are experiencing a financial hardship.

Thrift Savings Plan Facts Sheet

All time, attendance, human resources, payroll and benefits questions should be sent to: HRManagement@cpsc.govduring the furlough.  The Office of Human Resources Management is monitoring this mailbox and will respond to your message.  You are also welcome to send questions directly to the Director, EXRM, Donna Simpson at dsimpson@cpsc.gov 

Outside Activity Requests

The executive branch-wide standards of ethical conduct and rules regarding outside employment continue to apply when an individual is furloughed. In addition, the CPSC also has supplemental regulations requiring the approval of outside employment. The required form to request approval for outside activities is attached. Employees should submit the form to hrmanagement@cpsc.gov. The Office of General Counsel will review these requests while performing excepted activities during the furlough.

Outside Activity Request Form

Personal Counseling Assistance – Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

I know that this continues to be an uncertain and unsettling time for many of you. Our Employee Assistance Program remains available throughout the lapse. Feel free to contact them at: 1-800-222-0364.

Reminder of Limitations on Activities during the Funding Lapse

During the lapse in funding only “excepted activities” may be performed by designated staff on the “excepted list” or recalled employees. You can find the entire Lapse Plan on the CPSC public website.

Furloughed employees are not legally permitted to engage in any official activities.  This is a broad restriction and includes using your official or personal phones for any agency business, or logging into the agency’s email system to check your email (even if you don’t actually respond to emails).

We are thinking of each and every one of you, and we will continue to provide updates as additional information is available. 

Thank you for your extraordinary commitment to service and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.