NASCOE News Flash – January 15, 2019

The past few days have been very active in preparation of a temporary limited employee call back. This has been a very fluid process and plans have been modified multiple times. Below is the most current information NASCOE has been able to obtain. Also listed below is the latest information regarding situations where a partial paycheck for PP26 was not received.

1. The employee “call back” is intended to protect FSA collateral and assets and to close out 2018 FLP business so that accurate 1099’s can be provided to producers timely.

2. There are a limited number (2500) of employees approved to work during this temporary call back. Original list sent in exceeded this number and states had to cut back.

3. SED’s had the ability to determine who would be called in using this emergency authority. There hasn’t been any consistency from state to state on how that was determined.

4. Employees will be working under the “excepted” status meaning they will not be paid until the shutdown is resolved.

5. This is not expected to be a recurring process at this time .

6. Deadlines for various programs will have to be reviewed once the shutdown is resolved.

7. A communication package announcing the limited availability of staff is being developed and will be provided to states. The National Office and State Offices will deliver this communication to the public.

8. Time spent at work will have a limited scope of approved activity, mainly focusing on FLP, MAL and FSFL servicing. County Offices will be approved for intermittent/incidental activities, meaning they will be able to accept documents for other programs from producers but will not be able to process anything.

9. The initial NFC PAYE salary sweep paid about 90% of the employees that were due a partial payment. They are continuing to run sweep to get the remaining 10% paid. An employee shared this response from the FPAC Business Center regarding not getting paid.

“FPAC HRD had almost all of its exempt employees validating and certifying PP26 T&A’s last week. We were able to get just over 90% certified before the last run of PAYE on Friday. We have been and will continue to run reports and use them to continue to get T&A’s certified. Getting employees paid is always our top priority.”

Dennis Ray
NASCOE President

Deadline: Tonight! DSA Nominations Deadline

January 15, 2019

It is hard to believe that we are now entering day 25 of the furlough. So many of us are sitting in robes glued to the news network wondering when we will go back. The morale of all my FSA friends is definitely at an all time low. I have been thinking about how we can increase each other’s morale. That is when it hit me. The DSA nomination was designed to recognize our fellow NASCOE members for their hard work and contributions.

Please, help me in lifting everyone’s morale by nominating someone today! The NASCOE deadline for DSA nominations is tonight at midnight!

Thank you,
Julie Goetzman
NASCOE Awards & Scholarship Chair

Photo of Julie Goetzman

Julie Goetzman

National Awards and Scholarships Chairperson Texas
Cell Phone: (281) 250-4752

NASCOE Shutdown Furlough Page Updated January 10, 2019

As noted in President Dennis Ray’s update of Friday, January 4, 2019, a Shutdown Furlough Information page has been created on the NASCOE website. The Furlough Information page will be updated throughout the shutdown as NASCOE leadership receives information.  The page is NOT intended to replace agency guidance, but will accumulate information received by NASCOE Leadership regarding the shutdown and furlough. The button can be accessed at www.nascoe.org.

Members are asked to refer any questions to their state association President, who will forward to NASCOE leadership through the Area Executives.

Information that has been updated / added to this page:

  • National Finance Center Bulletin – Employee Personal Page (EPP) Password Resets During the Government Shutdown.

To view this information and other previously acquired information, please visit the Shutdown Furlough information page on the NASCOE website.

The page may also be accessed directly at:
https://nascoe.org/furlough-guidance-for-nascoe-members/

If you haven’t done so already, please follow the NASCOE website by visiting www.nascoe.org and entering your home email address in the “Follow blog by email” box.  On Facebook, enter @NASCOENews in the search box to find and “Like” the Nascoe News page.

NASCOE Legislative Committee FY19 Appropriations Update – January 8, 2019

January 8, 2019
Appropriations Update

Hunter Moorhead, Legislative Consultant

Over the weekend, the White House, led by VP Pence met with Congressional Democratic staff to continue discussions to break the current partial government shutdown.  

The White House gave staff a letter (attached) requesting $5.7 billion in border security funding (notable was a characterization of the border structure funding as “steel barriers”) and $800m in humanitarian assistance funding and an additional $798m in detention beds for the border.

The letter request represents approximately a $7b increase in funding for border security (and other CBP, ICE, etc.) funding related to the border over the FY 2019 request. None of the funding requested in the letter is offset.

Good news: The language and characterization of some of the items is changing, perhaps signaling movement toward common ground (or a compromise reflecting something that both sides can claim victory over). In addition, the inclusion of the $758m for support of 52k detention beds and $800m for urgent humanitarian assistance are included to gain Democratic support.

Less good news: The two sides continue to complain about the other and Congressional Democrats noted both the lack of justification materials and offsets for the spending which doesn’t signal a sense of urgency to resolve the funding impasse.  

The House is scheduled to vote later this week on four individual appropriations measures closely reflecting the FY 2019 Senate passed bills for Agriculture, Financial Services/General Government, Interior, and Transportation/HUD. This is just another version of the strategy the House employed last week – passing spending measures that have previously been moved with broad bipartisan support in the Senate to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Republicans in that body to engage on the government shutdown.

To this point, Senate Majority Leader has indicated the disagreement is between the White House and Congressional Democrats and that he will not put a bill on the Senate floor to fund the remaining agencies of the government unless it has the support of the White House.

The President is scheduled to speak to the nation tonight at 9:00 pm. At this point, we don’t expect the President will be announcing any new agreement leading to reopening the government.  In addition, President Trump will be on Capitol Hill Wednesday visiting with Senate Republicans about the government shutdown and 2019 agenda.

Questions:
With this being a new Congress, are we at risk of losing previously agreed upon appropriations for FSA salaries and expenses? Can we possibly increase previously agreed upon funding levels?

At this point, the Congressional negotiators are following last year’s agreed upon funding levels. Following the shutdown, we will work with FSA leadership to determine how the Department funded operations and the possible negative impact on any available salaries and expenses funding.

Market Facilitation Program:
(Washington, D.C., January 8, 2019) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today extended the deadline for agricultural producers to apply for payments under the Market Facilitation Program as provided by the trade mitigation program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  The original deadline had been January 15, 2019, but farmers have been unable to apply for the program since the lapse in federal funding caused the closure of USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices at the end of business on December 28, 2018.

NASCOE News Flash — PP26 Concerns

Dennis Ray, NASCOE President

Good evening everyone,

I received the email below a few minutes ago from Deputy Administrator of Field Operations in WDC.  The email was distributed to state offices earlier today and addresses PP 26 concerns. 

Dennis Ray
NASCOE President





SEDs/AOs/EOs –

Guidance was emailed to FSA State and County level staff this morning by the FPAC Business Center.  We have had several questions related to the ‘Partial Exempt Employees’ portion of this document and how it relates to FSA CO non-federal employees.  As you are aware FSA CO non-federal employees were funded for the first week of pp 26 and on ‘furlough’ for the second week of pp 26.  Prior to shutting down, FSA CO non-federal employees were directed to complete their work-hours for the first week of pp 26, but not to input anything in WebTA for the second week of pp 26. 

At this time, despite confusion with the interpretation of the attached T&A Submission Guidance, FSA CO non-federal employees should NOT be accessing the WebTA system or loading any transaction codes (TC) into their T&As.  No action is needed by FSA CO non-federal employees, their supervisors, local timekeepers or State master timekeepers for pp 26.  FPAC-BC-HRD staff is taking necessary actions to complete PP 26 coding and processing for FSA CO non-federal employees.  It is our understanding that FSA CO non-federal employees will be paid, via NFC, for their work-hours the first week of pp 26 and it is anticipated this will occur within the normal payroll cycle.

Thank you,

Peggy S. Browne

Deputy Administrator of Field Operations
USDA FSA

*New* Furlough Information Page

As noted in President Dennis Ray’s update of Friday, January 4, 2019, a Shutdown Furlough Information page has been created on the NASCOE website. The page is NOT intended to replace agency guidance, but will accumulate information received by NASCOE Leadership regarding the shutdown and furlough. The button can be accessed at www.nascoe.org.

Information that is referenced on this page includes:

  • Link to the Office of Personnel Management website
  • OPM’s Shutdown Furlough Guidance Page
  • FAQs on Emergency Furlough
  • Department of Labor resources on Unemployment Benefits
  • SF-8 Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees form with USDA Information
  • USDA Ops Center Website
  • All NASCOE Communications on Shutdown and Furlough

The page may also be accessed directly at:
https://nascoe.org/furlough-guidance-for-nascoe-members/

The Furlough Information page will be updated throughout the shutdown as NASCOE leadership receives information.  Members are asked to refer any questions to their state association President, who will forward to NASCOE leadership through the Area Executives.

If you haven’t done so already, please follow the NASCOE website by visiting www.nascoe.org and entering your home email address in the “Follow blog by email” box.  On Facebook, enter @NASCOENews in the search box to find and “Like” the Nascoe News page.

NASCOE News Flash – NASCOE President Update, January 4, 2019

Hello Everyone,

As we go into the weekend without a resolution to the shutdown, our legislative Consultant Hunter Moorhead, has provided an update on where the process is currently. You should be receiving that soon if you haven’t already.  

NASCOE appreciates the answers shared by FSA leadership and the Business Center to questions we submitted last week as the shutdown began, however we know that many questions remain.  While there isn’t much new information to pass on, we will try to share what we know.

  • PP 26 pay status.  Information provided last week indicated that PP 26 would process on schedule for the time the agency was funded.  As of right now we have not received guidance on the logistics of how that will work.
  • The FAQ document provided in the email from the Secretary’s Office has some good information.  If you did not forward that to your home email, a copy of it will be posted to the NASCOE webpage.
  • NASCOE will continue to monitor both congressional and departmental developments.  Hopefully there will be more information to share soon.
  • The NASCOE webpage is being updated to include links to the OPM webpage that contains information on the lapse in funding, including information on unemployment resources. Since each state is different NASCOE will provide the link from OPM as opposed to trying the provide specific answers.
  • The NASCOE webpage is in the process of adding a page devoted to furlough and shutdown information. That should be done by the morning of January 5th and our publicity chair will send out an update when that page is live.

As we wait for further guidance, please continue to send your questions up through your state presidents and area execs.  We will forward those questions to leadership for their review and response. As unusual as this shutdown has been, answers are difficult to come by. As mentioned above the NASCOE webpage will post all available information so please follow www.nascoe.org for the latest updates.

Dennis Ray, NASCOE President

NASCOE Legislative Committee FY19 Appropriations Update–January 4, 2019

January 4, 2019
Appropriations Update
Hunter Moorhead, Legislative Consultant

Another week has passed without an agreement to reopen the federal government. The President hosted a meeting today with Congressional Leadership to discuss how to fund border security wall and reopen the government. While folks believe progress was made, the government will remain closed into next week. The below text outlines the public conversation between negotiators. In addition, the House Appropriations Committee today introduced disaster legislation. As you all know, we will provide information should the President or Congress announce any deal to reopen the federal government. 

Following Meeting with President Trump

Speaker Pelosi:

  • We will continue talking
  • We cannot resolve the issue until the government reopens
  • We are committed to defending the country and our constitution

Schumer:

  • Don’t hold millions of Americans hostage…open the government and continue the discussions
  • President resisted…said he would keep the government closed for months or years
  • Must open the government

Press – Progress on a dollar figure?

  • Pelosi – we made some progress on the negotiations

Trump:

  • Incredible job growth…factories are moving back to the US…312,000 jobs
  • Productive meeting – Pelosi and Schumer…on the same path
  • Additional meetings this weekend
  • Border Patrol laid out the problem
  • You see people entering where we don’t have walls…officer shot and killed
  • Ports of entry have walls…these people go to the weakest part…some walking
  • Wall in CA is working
  • Built by US Steel Companies
  • Team will work over the weekend
  • We are 5.6 billion…may add other items

Pence:

  • Two weeks into the shutdown…crisis on the border
  • Everyday 2,000 people are stopped trying to enter the country
  • Trump provided the leadership American people expect…committed to build a wall on the southern border
  • Pence, Kushner and Secretary Nielsen will lead the weekend negotiations

McCarthy:

  • Two hour productive meeting
  • President needs border security and the government open
  • We will get this done

House Appropriations Committee
Emergency Disaster Appropriations bill

Title I – Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

Agricultural Programs — $1.1 billion. Payments for crop and livestock losses due to hurricanes, typhoons, volcanic activities, or wildfires during 2018. 

Emergency Forest Restoration Program — $480 million.  Assistance to owners of private forests to restore disaster-damaged forests. 

Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations — $125 million. Financial and technical assistance to states and local sponsors to protect and restore watersheds up to 250,000 acres.

Rural Community Facilities Program — $150 million.  Grants for facilities to provide health care, education, public safety, and public services to rural communities.

Nutrition Assistance Program for Puerto Rico — $600 million.  Additional funding to continue disaster nutrition benefits in Puerto Rico during its recovery from Hurricane Maria. 

Nutrition Assistance Program for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) — $10.2 million.  Additional funding for nutrition benefits in CNMI following typhoons in September and October.

In addition —

  • Provide trade mitigation assistance through the Market Facilitation Program to producers who derive at least 75 percent of their adjusted gross income from farming, ranching, or forestry related activities.

§ Provide trade mitigation assistance through the Market Facilitation Program to producers who derive at least 75 percent of their adjusted gross income from farming, ranching, or forestry related activities.

Furlough Update – December 28, 2018

Dennis Ray, NASCOE President

Many questions still remain about the furlough and how to proceed. I have just received the following information from the FPAC Business Center and FSA leadership.

Dennis Ray
NASCOE President

  1. Coding time — The county employees should code their timesheets for days worked, holidays on December 24 and December 25, as well as any leave taken between December 26 and December 28 before the furlough which takes effect at close of business on December 28. Once we have guidance from the Department’s Office of Human Resources Management and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) regarding timesheet coding for the furlough days, we will provide guidance from the FPAC Human Resources Division. Keep in mind there may be legislation enacted to pay employees for the days they were furloughed.
  2. Retirements — Per OPM regulations, regardless of whether there is a furlough, retirements are retroactive to the date employees make them effective. Employees will also not lose any leave over 240 hours, as it may be restored.
  3. Salaries — PP 25 salaries will be paid on schedule. PP26 paychecks for exempt employees will be paid on schedule. Exempt employees, per the Department’s Office of Human Resource Management (OHRM), will not have to wait to be paid until the furlough is over.
  4. Leave — Leave taken while county employees are still funded is treated just like leave taken under normal funding – “business as usual”. Any scheduled leave on a furlough day is cancelled and the hours are treated as furlough time.
  5. Shutdown procedures — The instructions for orderly shutdown were in the attached letter which the county employees received on the morning of Wednesday, December 26, 2018.
  6. Furlough letter — The official furlough notice was provided on Wednesday, December 26 and the FPAC Human Resources Division will not be issuing another letter to county employees. The furlough begins at close of business on Friday, December 28, and employees can either complete shutdown activities today before they leave (December 28) or come into the office on Monday, December 31 to do so. If they cannot come into the office, the shutdown procedure can be completed upon their return to the office.
  7. Services to the Service Center — I do not know whether services will be affected at service centers. Here in Washington, DC, even though folks are working in this building, we have no services, such as trash pickup or cleaning.

Christmas Greetings

On behalf of the entire NASCOE leadership team I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.  I hope that everyone can put aside the uncertainty of budget talks, continuing resolutions and partial shutdowns and focus on making memories with loved ones.  We are blessed beyond measure and thankful for friends and family.  NASCOE’s legislative consultant and legislative team have been and will continue to monitor the budget situation in Congress and will relay any new information as it becomes available.  In the meantime, let’s focus on the reason for the season. 

Merry Christmas!

Dennis Ray
NASCOE President

2018-19 NASCOE Officers, Execs, Chairs