As we’ve been saying at TCS for a long time: transparency matters, accountability matters, #OversightMatters.
So, one of the first places we looked in the newly introduced HEROES Act was Division G, “Accountability and Government Operations.” And we found some gems.
One of the ways the president has seemingly avoided oversight was by firing, demoting, retiring or putting on leave without pay (depending on who you ask) the powerful Inspectors General at various federal agencies. Previous legislation in response to COVID-19 has included extra money for the Inspectors General in anticipation of huge increases in federal spending. As does this one, appropriating nearly $80 million across 12 different inspector generals. This latest legislation takes a few other steps.
- Section 70102: Notice must be made to Congress if the President makes a “change in status” to any Inspector General. Previously such notice was only required when the President fired an IG, this legislation would extend the requirement to any IG “place on paid or unpaid duty status.”
- Section 70103: The President would also be required to explain any failure to nominate an IG within a 210 day appointment window and provide a target date for the next nomination.
- Section 70104: Presidents would only be allowed to remove an IG for: permanent incapacity; inefficiency; neglect of duty; malfeasance; felony conviction of matter of moral turpitude; knowing violation of a law, rule or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; or abuse of authority.
- Section 70105: The U.S. Postal Service IG would be required to perform an annual audit of the use of appropriations and borrowing authority, including the use of funds to cover lost revenues, COVID-19 costs, and expenditures.
Section 70201: Census deadlines are modified, now requiring the Secretary of Commerce to tabulate totals and give them to the President within 13 months of April 1, 2020 (May 1, 2021) and to make the numbers public on the same date. And within 14 days the President shall transmit to Congress the total number of people in each state and the number of Representatives to which each State is entitled.
Section 70301: Telework is mandated for all federal employees through December 31, 2020. The language takes pains to point out that this includes the Library of Congress and the Government Accountability Office. There is a prohibition on placing agency-wide limits on teleworking. Agencies are required to set annual goals to increase the percentage of employees who are teleworking.
Section 70303: The legislation would put in place a presumption of eligibility for Workers’ Compensation for federal employees diagnosed with COVID-19.
Federal Contracting Provisions
Section 70401: The bill mandates teleworking for all contractor personnel to the “maximum extent practicable” beginning 15 days after enactment of the legislation and not ending until the public health emergency expires.
Section 70402: amends implementation of Section 3610 of P.L. 116-136 to require uniform implementation of the section across all federal agencies. That section allowed the modification of federal contracts when:
- employees or subcontractors cannot perform work on a site previously approved by the federal government, and
- cannot telework because their duties can’t be performed remotely under the current public health emergency.
Section 70404: The bill also mandates accelerated payments for any prime contract to make payments due 15 days after receipt of a proper invoice.
District of Columbia
Section 70501: The District is given special borrowing authority.
Section 70603: U.S. Postal Service borrowing authority is clarified to say the Secretary of the Treasury “shall lend up to the amount described in P.L. 116-136.” This strengthens the previous language, “…the Postal Service may borrow money from the Treasury in an amount not to exceed $10,000,000,000…”.
*Division A also makes a $25 billion payment to the USPS to cover foregone revenue. The bill does call for the USPS to prioritize the purchase of personal protective equipment for employees and for additional cleaning of buildings and vehicles.
* Click here for all our recent work on oversight and Inspectors General.