This week, the House took an important step toward better protecting our dedicated federal workforce from COVID-19 by passing my bill, the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act.
Chai Suthammanont was my constituent and 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 working through the coronavirus pandemic.
Chai’s widow, Christina, has worked closely 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
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:
You can watch my full speech in support of my bill on the House floor here:
- Data on the personal protective equipment (PPE) the agency will provide to employees,
- Additional cleaning protocols to be implemented by the agency,
- Efforts to ensure social distancing,
- Efforts to protect employees who work outside of federal office buildings (such as auditors or inspectors),
- Safety and health requirements for visitors to federal facilities,
- Contingency options for those at high-risk of contracting the coronavirus, and
- Efforts to ensure continuity of agency operations, including contingency plans should there be a surge in coronavirus cases.
In addition to my legislation, I sent letters to 24 federal offices of Inspectors General (IGs) in June requesting their plans to oversee agency plans to return employees to federal office buildings. To keep track of their responses and any investigative work they complete, I recently released an online federal agency reopening IG Investigation Tracker. You can find it on my website here.
Let me be clear: Chai's was an avoidable death. Had there been protocols in place, a plan, guidance, he might still be alive today. 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.
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.
That will always be my mission.
Please continue to take care of yourselves and each other, and remember that my office is here to help. Be sure to visit the COVID-19 page on my website for more information and resources. If you have any questions or concerns, or if you need assistance, please don't hesitate to call us at (703) 256-3071.
Gerald E. Connolly
Member of Congress