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Chairman Connolly’s Statement on IG Report on OPM’s COVID-19 Response

Reiterates Call for Congress to Pass Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act to Protect Federal Workers

Congressman Gerry Connolly, Chairman of the House Government Operations subcommittee, released the following statement on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Office of the Inspector General’s report on the federal government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This report is a stunning indictment of the Trump administration’s reckless, rushed, and ultimately dangerous plans to return federal employees to the workplace in the middle of the pandemic. It was a total failure of leadership, where civil servants were treated like political pawns by President Trump,” Connolly said. “Thankfully, we have new leadership, driven by science and committed to public service, and on Day One, the Biden administration put in common sense practices, like face masks, to protect returning workers.”

Today’s report was in response to a June 2020 request by Connolly for the Inspector General to examine the plans and procedures OPM for returning federal employees to offices during the pandemic.

In the report, the IG determined that:

  • Improvements were needed for processing COVID-19 incidents;
  • In a majority of cases reviewed by the OIG, the OIG could not find evidence that employees were notified of a potential COVID exposure;
  • OPM management during the Trump administration did not require workers to wear face covering;
  • OPM needed to implement additional signage for entering, social distancing, and routine cleaning and disinfecting at the Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building.

The IG made six recommendations to improve plans to protect federal employees as they return to offices, and all were adopted by OPM.

“This report is a clarion call for Congress to pass the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act, and ensure federal employees are protected during this and future pandemics,” Connolly added.

Connolly’s Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act, which passed the House Committee on Oversight and Reform today, would require each agency to prepare and communicate a safety plan for returning workers to physical worksites.  The plan would include descriptions of the personal protective equipment that the agency will provide to its on-site employees and contractors; guidance of other mitigation efforts; protections for employees whose work requires them to travel off-site; testing, contact-tracing, and vaccination protocols; and protocols that ensure the continuity of operations in the event it is necessary to reverse on-site requirements. The bill would also require each agency’s Office of the Inspector General to report on whether the agency has published and implemented its safety plan.

A similar version of this bill passed the House last Congress under suspension.

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