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Oversight Committee Passes Connolly’s Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform reported out of committee H.R. 978, the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act yesterday. Chairman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) authored the legislation to prioritize the health and safety of the federal workforce in the midst of the global pandemic. Connolly first introduced the legislation in the 116th Congress, and it passed the House on September 30, 2020.

Chai Suthammanont was a federal employee who lost his life after contracting the coronavirus while working as part of the kitchen staff at a Quantico daycare center. He is one of many frontline federal employees whose jobs required them to continue serving the nation in a crowded space during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Let me be clear: this was an avoidable death.  Had there been protocols in place, a plan, guidance, Chai might still be alive today. Chai’s widow, Christina, has worked with my office to make sure this doesn’t happen to anybody else. I named this bill after Chai, because although the provisions in this bill can no longer help him, they can help the millions of federal and contract workers who will reenter federal workspaces across the country,” said Connolly.

“I refuse to sit idly by while more and more of our federal workforce are forced back to office buildings under superficial plans with zero accountability,” Connolly added. “This legislation is designed to save lives and protect those who serve the American people. We, as Members of Congress, have an obligation to protect the federal workforce who keep our country running. Who keep our country safe.”

The Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act would require each federal agency to publish online a plan to reopen a federal office building at least 30 days prior to the return of federal employees. The online plan would be required to 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. 

WUSA 9 covered Chai’s story here.

The legislation is endorsed by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE), Federal Aviation Administration Managers Association (FAAMA), United Power Trades Organization, Public Citizen, Professional Managers Association, Senior Executives Association, National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, Antilles Consolidated Education Association, National Weather Service Employees Organization, Patent Office Professional Association.

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