By Brandon Wilson, NASCOE President
May 26, 2021
Recently you may have heard that the new Emergency Paid Leave (EPL) provisions contained in the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) do not apply to County Office (CO) employees. NASCOE has been working to address this issue for some time and shares the concern of members regarding this benefit not being equally available to CO employees.
Historically, through the labor management agreement, NASCOE has requested that USDA allow CO employees the opportunity to enjoy benefits like those provided for GS employees by Federal law. USDA has normally responded to those requests favorably such as they did in the fall of 2020 by allowing CO employees access to the Paid Parental Leave benefit.
The EPL benefit provides paid leave to covered Federal (GS) employees when they are unable to work due to certain COVID-19 situations. Although this is a great benefit, it is important to note that when this leave is used, it will be reduced from the total service used to calculate Federal civilian annuity retirement benefits.
While in negotiations with USDA regarding this benefit, it was brought to NASCOE’s attention that USDA’s Office of General Counsel believes they cannot grant EPL benefits to CO employees. ARPA language defined eligible employees as those individuals “for whom annual and sick leave is provided under subchapter I of chapter 63 of title 5, United States Code.” The USDA Office of General Counsel says County employees do not meet this definition, as their annual and sick leave is provided under Title 7.
Moving forward, NASCOE remains in discussions with USDA about rectifying outstanding concerns associated with allowing the leave to be available for CO employees. In addition, the NASCOE Executive Committee will examine demand for this benefit and consider other proposals for similar CO COVID-19 leave alternatives.
Rest assured, NASCOE leadership fully understands how important new benefits, as well as all our existing benefits, are to each of you. NASCOE is committed to tirelessly fighting for them on your behalf no matter how long it takes. We cannot do it alone and appreciate the support of membership as we work to ensure that you continue to have the same privileges that other GS employees enjoy.