NASCOE President Brandon Wilson updates membership on this week’s meeting in Washington, DC regarding Office Resource Management.
On January 22, 2019 the National Office held a teleconference with all Employee Associations in an effort to update them on Agency furlough activities to date.
The call also included Q&A’s.
Attached to this NASCOE News Flash are teleconference notes from the “All Employee Association Furlough Teleconference”
The notes are not official agency policy / directive, but rather taken from handwritten contemporaneous notes created by a participant on the reference call.
Many of the items in this document were covered with the NASCOE State Association President’s on the January 23, 2019 call with the NASCOE Officers.
If there are any questions regarding the topics contained in this document, please contact your state association President. They will refer your questions or concerns to the NASCOE Officers through your Area Executives.
Furlough All Employee Association Conference Call notes (PDF)
Fellow NASCOE Members,
NASCOE leadership believes it is possible that all County Office Employees may be called back as “excepted” employees. Excepted employees would be required to perform limited duties if approved by OMB and to work without pay until shutdown ends. The negative employee impacts that are the most concerning to NASCOE are the potential loss of unemployment benefits and the loss of the ability to utilize outside employment to make ends meet.
NASCOE fully understands that the negative impacts of the current agricultural economy are compounded by the additional loss of FSA benefits. While NASCOE is sympathetic to the burdens our farmers face, NASCOE cannot support sacrificing the financial security of Farm Service Agency County Office Employees by subjecting them to a callback without pay.
As fellow employees, we are dealing with the same financial stress and fully understand the situations that employees are facing. NASCOE is in constant communication with Administration leadership in an effort to discuss ways to minimize the impact on FSA employees.
NASCOE is deeply concerned that the callback could force some employees to leave the agency and force others to make the decision to retire. These actions will have a negative long-term impact on FSA’s ability to provide quality service to our producers when they need us the most. Trained, experienced and committed employees who leave the agency will not be easily replaced.
NASCOE has been very disappointed in the lack of clear direction and instructions from the very beginning of this historic furlough. NASCOE has diligently made an effort to keep members up to date. Keep in mind this is not official notification. As details continue to emerge, NASCOE will be sharing information with our membership as quickly as possible. Please continue to look for email correspondence and website updates with the latest news from NASCOE.
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.”
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.
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.
Peggy S. Browne
Deputy Administrator of Field Operations
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
As you are all aware, the agency has begun planning for a potential shutdown in case there is a lapse in funding. The National Office conducted a conference call Friday afternoon with the employee associations to discuss the current status of the shutdown and to explain how employees would be affected going forward. I would like to share some of the main points from the conference call.
- Non-Federal CO employees and Federal GS employees are funded separately. Due to carryover funds from previous appropriations Non-Federal CO employees will continue to work if a partial shutdown occurs and GS employees will not.
- It is estimated the FSA has enough carryover funds for CO employees to work 4-6 days. It is our understanding that Monday and Tuesday holidays will take up 2 of those days.
- NRCS has more unexpended funds than FSA and they will remain at work longer than CO FSA employees if there is an extended furlough.
- Unlike previous furlough situations, employees on leave will NOT be required to come in when the furlough begins to sign a letter of acknowledgement. Employees will be able to do that on the first day after their scheduled leave.
Please be assured that NASCOE is constantly monitoring the situation, both with the agency and Congress. Our legislative consultant and legislative committee have been sending out updates as they happen. Please take this opportunity to reach out to your state associations to make sure you are on their distribution lists. Also follow NASCOE News for Facebook and the NASCOE webpage for updates. We will be posting any new information as it becomes available.
It has been a busy past few weeks since our last update. We had a very successful National Convention in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The South Dakota Association worked very hard to provide a great experience for the several hundred attendees. I would like to take this time to thank a few of the folks that made the convention such a success. Becky Zirpel, Joel Foster and Larry Olson, along with the entire South Dakota Association, went above and beyond to host the 59th National Convention and we thank them for their efforts. I would like to thank Randy Tillman and Jamie Garriott for their many hours of hard work and their usual tremendous job in providing the audio and visual support.
The convention was very well attended by National Office leadership, including Undersecretary Bill Northey, Administrator Richard Fordyce, Associate Administrator Steve Peterson, Deputy Administrator of Field Operations Peggy Browne and Deputy Administrator of Farm Programs Brad Karmen. Also attending for FSA were Linda Treese, Trina Brake and Kathy Sayers. FPAC business center was represented by Terri Meighan and Darren Ash. Rebecca Dudley and Ameer Ali, from the Managerial Cost Accounting Team presented information on the workload tool and Optimally Productive Office dashboard. Steve Stark was also present and demonstrated the farmers.gov portal. Members were provided a 2-hour question and answer session where they could ask the panel questions that were on their minds. The notes from the Q & A are currently in WDC being reviewed and vetted for accuracy by those who answered the questions. Q & A notes will be posted to the NASCOE website as soon as they are received back from WDC. We thank the national office for being generous in approving travel for so many people to attend our convention. It is very beneficial for our membership to have that opportunity to network with our national leaders.
NASCOE leadership recently held our organizational meeting in Manhattan, Kansas site of the 2019 national convention. KASCOE is preparing for a great convention next year. It will be a great site for the convention and I hope folks begin planning now to attend. At the meeting, we reviewed the challenges for the upcoming year and discus sed our plans for addressing those concerns. We also spent one day working with national committee chairs and setting goals and action plans for meeting those goals. We also discussed the status of the Farm Bill and funding for FY-2019.
Based on information provided by our legislative consultant, it doesn’t appear that the Farm Bill will be passed before the current bill expires on September 30th. There are several items that have been agreed upon, but the nutrition title remains an issue. Committee conferees have been named and NASCOE is watching a couple items that are important to our membership and will need to be resolved in the committee before the bill goes to the full congress for approval. The results of the midterm elections could determine if the current bill is considered as is when Congress returns after the election or if the bill is revised.
Funding for the FY-19 has not been passed as of the date of this article. It appears likely that the ag approps bill will be included in a minibus scheduled to be voted on Friday, September 28th, which would provide a continuing resolution funding us until December 7, 2018. While the exact funding level is not known, indications have been positive regarding the amount provided FSA. We will continue to monitor the farm bill and funding issues and will provides updates through our legislative committee as they occur.
NASCOE is following up on a few items raised at the national convention such as the acreage reporting dates for perennial forages, increasing the number of activation sites for resetting lincpass cards and the late filed deadlines for acreage reports. We are currently trying to schedule a meeting with management to work on these and other pressing issues. We will provide updates to these efforts as we can. In the meantime, please feel free to contact any of your NASCOE leaders if you have any issues or concerns.