August 24, 2021
By Clint Bain and Neil Burnette
NASCOE Legislative Co-Chairs
Annually, the NASCOE legislative team engages with Congress regarding what resources FSA needs to fulfill its mission. Even with COVID-19 restrictions this year was no different. The NASCOE legislative consultant has been working with members of Congress to advance NASCOE’s priorities by maintaining key relationships on both sides of the isle in both the House and the Senate.
Recently, the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations approved their draft fiscal year 2022 appropriations bill and report. The House companion has now been approved by the full House of Representatives. Both the Senate and the House version will be combined to arrive at a version which will serve as a vehicle for FSA’s 2022 salaries and expense funding.
The chart below provides details about FSA salaries and expenses spending levels.
|Previously Enacted||House||Senate||Enacted Level|
|FY 2021 $1,437,038,000||FY 2022 $1,469,784,000 +$32,746,000||FY 2022 $1,472,438,000 +$35,400,000||FY 2022 To be determined|
In addition, NASCOE secured language related to our legislative priorities. The below items can be found within the draft Committee bills.
- Prohibiting FSA County Office closures
- Funding for County Committee meetings
- Prohibiting permanent relocation of staff without Congressional notification
- The Committee remains concerned about staffing shortages at FSA offices and continues to direct the Secretary to submit a report to Congress with an administrative breakdown of allotment levels by State, current full-time equivalents, current on-board permanent employees by State, and funded ceiling levels by State.
While it is nice to see appropriations that are considerably higher than the previous year, we are not yet at the end of the road. The Legislative Team along with NASCOE’s Legislative Consultant will continue to monitor progress of the Senate Bill as it makes its way to the Senate floor for a vote. If passed, the bills will then go to an appointed conference committee before again coming to a vote in both chambers. A more detailed report regarding the House committee report language and Senate Disaster language can be found on the NASCOE Website.
Greetings NASCOE Convention Members and Guests,
We’re now just a few days from the 2021 NASCOE National Convention in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We know that many of you will be departing soon so we wanted to share some updated convention information and reminders to folks before they get on the road.
- NEW: Additional COVID-19 safety measures may be implemented by USDA in the upcoming days. As such, FSA has determined at this late hour that they will not be participating in the convention, either in person or virtual.
- Management will likely require individuals to quarantine upon return from personal travel. This may depend on your individual vaccination status. You should communicate with your supervisor or State Office to determine if there is a need for quarantine or telework upon returning from the convention.
- NEW: Regular temperature screenings will be implemented for members participating in NASCOE sponsored events.
- NEW: An emphasis will be placed on socializing responsibly outside of NASCOE events.
- The NASCOE Executive Committee has determined that NASCOE will follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for the 2021 National Convention. We will not be distinguishing between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals during official functions, therefore NASCOE will be requiring all attendees, volunteers, and vendors to adhere to the CDC protocols for unvaccinated individual for large events found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/large-gatherings.html.
- NASCOE has put into place precautionary measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 among attendees, however all attendees and their guests will need to acknowledge the risks associated with attending the National Convention by completing a release of liability form at registration. The release can be reviewed ahead of time by visiting the NASCOE website at https://nascoe.org/convention-information/2021-nascoe-convention/. While we hope it doesn’t come to it, any attendee, NASCOE member or otherwise, who does not follow the requirements will be asked to leave the convention.
- The current guidance includes wearing a mask to protect yourself and others. So please don’t forget to bring an ample number of masks to the convention. You will be required to wear your facemask during all NASCOE meetings and events, except with actively eating or drinking. Information on the correct wearing of facemasks can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-to-wear-cloth-face-coverings.html.
- To the greatest extent possible, you should practice social distancing while at the convention. The CDC recommends staying 6 feet away from people who don’t live in your household. Remember, some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Monitor your health daily. Watch for fever, cough, and shortness of breath, as well as other symptoms https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html. Do not travel to the convention if you have these symptoms or have recently tested positive for COVID-19, are waiting on COVID-19 results, or have had close contact with a person who has tested positive for or who has symptoms of COVID-19
- Prior to traveling, monitor the COVID-19 levels in both your hometown and the site of the National Convention. You can find trends for your area at https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#trends_dailytrendscases. Additionally, you can find status advisories for Allen County at https://www.allencountyhealth.com/get-informed/covid-19/ and for the entire state of Indiana at https://www.coronavirus.in.gov/.
- During travel, the CDC requires wearing a mask over your nose and mouth on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation. More information can be found at https://www.tsa.gov/coronavirus and https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/pdf/Mask-Order-CDC_GMTF_01-29-21-p.pdf. If driving, consider using disposable gloves when pumping fuel, using hand sanitizer frequently, and wearing masks when appropriate.
- Sharing of items is discouraged. Consider bringing your own pens, paper, and any other items needed for the meetings. Bringing a personal water bottle for individual use is also highly encouraged.
While these measures may seem extraneous, there is nothing more important to NASCOE than the safety of our members. This has been true throughout the pandemic as we’ve worked and communicated both internally and with National Office leadership.
With the appropriate precautions, we know that everyone will be able to have a great time while appreciating that they and their fellow members are as safe as possible.
Thank you for your support and cooperation,
Recent media releases on mandatory vaccines for Federal employees has increased the discussion related to COVID-19 protocol. An announcement about new COVID-19 policy affecting all government employees is expected to be released very soon.
Over the past year, NASCOE has been engaged on the topic of COVID-19 as it relates to employee safety, limited office staffing, telework, office visitors, mask mandates and vaccines. A recent inquiry with headquarters has revealed that at this time the national office has not yet received official information on the topic of mandatory vaccinations. They are catching up on the topic though news releases much as we are in the field. This underscores the fact that directives on this topic are coming from the highest level of government. The President will be the single source of decision making on this topic.
It is our understanding the White House is considering a rule that will require all Federal employees to be vaccinated. The President may mandate this new rule for all Federal employees or he may delegate authority for individual departments and agencies to make the decision. Reports also suggest another option which would include an alternative to a mandatory employee vaccination. NASCOE hopes to receive an update from the national office as soon as they have information to share. We will be expressing to management the concerns that employees in the field have on this topic. Also, we will continue to consult our attorney in Washington DC so that we have a complete understanding of legal authorities and civil rights as they relate to this topic.
Additional information about mandatory vaccines can be found by consulting resources provided by the Department of Justice, the Equal Employment Commission, and the Centers for Disease Control. These institutions/agencies are being looked to for guidance on the topic by many organizations. Links to information provided by these groups can be found below:
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is in charge of monitoring civil rights of Americans in the workplace. Here is a link on the topic at hand: https://www.eeoc.gov/newsroom/eeoc-issues-updated-covid-19-technical-assistance
- Department of Justice July Memorandum: https://www.justice.gov/olc/file/1415446/download
- Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
Mandatory vaccinations and other COVID-19 protocols are all issues that impact our members. NASCOE leadership is working hard to stay on top of all issues related to COVID-19 and will continue to voice member concerns about safety and restrictions to the Department as we move forward.