Tuesday, March 21, 2023
Home People Comer: Federal Workers Must SHOW UP for the American People

Comer: Federal Workers Must SHOW UP for the American People

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WASHINGTON—House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) today delivered remarks on the House floor in support of H.R. 139, the Stopping Home Work’s Unproductive Problems Act (SHOW UP Act).

Chairman Comer introduced the SHOW UP Act to require federal workers to return to pre-pandemic telework levels so that government agencies can best serve the American people. The SHOW UP Act also requires a crucial review of pandemic-era telework policies, which continue to remain in place and hurt the federal government’s ability to deliver vital programs.

Below are Chairman Comer’s remarks as prepared for delivery.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in support of H.R. 139, the Stopping Home Office Work’s Unproductive Problems Act, or SHOW UP Act.

This legislation is urgent.

The federal workforce needs to get back to work.

Federal agencies are falling short of their missions.

They are not carrying out their duties.

They are failing the American people.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the federal workforce stayed home. 

They relied on telework because they could.

But as the rest of America went back to work in-person, federal workers did not.

And the American people have suffered as a result.

They have waited for months for their tax refunds from the IRS.

They have waited for months for the Social Security Administration to answer their questions and provide their benefits.

Our veterans have even waited for months to get their medical records from the National Archives.

The National Archives is responsible for maintaining medical records for our veterans. 

But our veterans could not get access to these records, because the Archives’ staff were at home.

This is unacceptable. 

And it should be downright embarrassing to these agencies.

The American people have struggled with high inflation, scarce goods, prolonged and disruptive lockdowns, and other hardships.

Meanwhile, the Biden Administration has showered federal workers with perks and pay increases all while “working from home.”

But federal employees not being in the workplace hurt the federal government’s ability to achieve its missions and deliver vital programs.

House Republicans have fought hard to find out just how much expanded telework has decreased agencies’ abilities to deliver services to our constituents.

And we have tried to get this information from the Biden Administration, but to no avail.

During the last Congress, as House Oversight Committee Ranking Member, I wrote to the Administration requesting information on federal workforce return-to-work polices.

But the Biden Administration failed to provide adequate responses to our inquiries.

Instead, it kept expanded telework policies in place—long after the pandemic was over. 

And it used its expanded telework policies not to help our constituents, but to help recruit new employees to the federal government.

The federal workforce already enjoys many perks not enjoyed by the private sector—including unparalleled job stability, healthy retirement benefits, and reliable pay-growth expectations.

One would have thought that—as the pandemic wound down—federal workers would have returned to their offices just as private sector workers across the nation did.

But that is not the case.

According to the Office of Personnel Management’s most recent report on telework, 47 percent of federal workers teleworked routinely or situationally in Fiscal Year 2021.

That was a two percent increase over Fiscal Year 2020, the year in which the pandemic struck.

According to a Federal Times report this past October, just one in three federal workers had returned to their office full-time in 2022.

But just last week the Wall Street Journal reported that a new study by Cushman & Wakefield found only “5% of the pre-pandemic workforce returned to work in federally leased buildings in Washington, D.C., in October and November[.]”

The federal government’s abuse of telework has gotten so bad that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has called on President Biden to suspend its telework policies for federal workers or turn over federal buildings in D.C. for conversion to affordable housing.

And the current OPM Director has stated that federal employees are actually getting transfers to agencies where they can telework more—not so they can serve our constituents and the American citizenry the best.

The SHOW UP Act offers a much-needed solution to this problem of federal agencies and federal employees putting their own comfort before our constituents’ needs.

It requires federal agencies to immediately return to pre-pandemic levels of telework.

This ensures that—from the day of enactment—priority number one for the federal workforce will be prompt and effective service to our constituents—not increasing the perks for an already privileged federal bureaucracy.

The SHOW UP Act also requires a government-wide review of pandemic-era teleworking policies.

This will help Congress see how much expanded telework either improved or harmed agency-by-agency effectiveness, costs, and network security across our vast federal government.

And the bill would prevent the Biden Administration from locking in higher levels of telework until Congress receives detailed plans on how agency mission-performance would be impacted.

If the agencies’ plans show increased telework would substantially improve agency performance, lower agency costs, ensure agency network security, and better disperse federal employees across the nation, then increased telework can then be considered as an option.

But not until increased telework has been proven to better serve our constituents and the nation.

I urge all my colleagues to support this vital legislation and reserve the balance of my time.

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