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Chairman Connolly Applauds Bipartisan Committee Passage of Bill to Prioritize Health and Safety of Federal Employees

Today, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, released the following statement after the Committee on Oversight and Reform voted favorably—with bipartisan support—to approve the Chai Suthammanont Healthy Federal Workplaces Act of 2022.

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.

“The tragic and infuriating reality is that Chai’s death could have been avoided,” said Chairman Connolly.  “If the federal government had a plan in place when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Chai may still be alive today.  We must learn from this and other losses and ensure that the health and safety of the civil servants whom the American people rely on every single day is prioritized—refusing to do so would be a disservice to Chai’s memory.  I am grateful to Christina, Chai’s widow, for working with my office to craft this legislation, to Chairwoman Maloney for bringing the bill up for consideration, and to my colleagues who voted in favor of protecting our federal workforce.  This legislation will save lives and we will continue to push for enactment because our civil servants are the lifeblood of our federal government and we must have their backs.”

After first introducing the bill in February 2021, Chairman Connolly reintroduced the legislation earlier this year in conjunction with a hearing the Subcommittee held on the future of the federal workforce.  The bill would ensure that the health and safety of federal workers is prioritized during nationwide public health emergencies declared for infectious disease.

Specifically, the Chai Suthammanont Healthy Federal Workplaces Act of 2022 would:

  • Require each federal agency to develop and maintain a plan that details public health protocols the agency will take during a declaration. The plan must include guidelines for testing, cleaning, occupancy limits, use of personal protective equipment, notification of individuals who may have been exposed, and protections for employees who travel off-site.
  • Require each agency to publish the safety plan on its website and communicate its plan to employees, contractors, and subcontractors.
  • Ensure accountability and oversight by requiring the Office of the Inspector General for each agency to report to Congress on plan implementation. The Government Accountability Office would also issue a report on the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic to improve future protocols.
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