Lawmakers say Biden Administration policies contributing to IRS and other casework backlog.

Recently, Congressman Michael Guest (MS-03) joined a group of Republican House Members in a letter to President Biden concerning the cause of delays in federal agency operations during the pandemic.

Click here to read the full letter.

The letter blames the delays on continued telework operations in the Biden Administration, despite available vaccinations and accommodations for those who do not receive the vaccine, as well as social distancing possibilities within federal offices.

“We write to express concerns that federal agencies under your administration have not maintained adequate levels of in-person work, despite having early access to the COVID-19 vaccine, reasonable accommodations for those who may not be able to receive a vaccine, reconfigured office spaces to allow for social distancing, and the installation of various technologies to distance staff from in-person customers,” the Republican House members write.

The lawmakers state that Congress has appropriated trillions of dollars since the pandemic effectively began in March 2020. However, they write, numerous reports of agencies that handle some of their constituents’ requests are operating at subpar level.

Some of the provided agency examples include: “Personnel Records for our Veterans, the Social Security Administration for those with disabilities or those required to register prior to retirement, the Internal Revenue Service’s processing of tax returns, the United States Postal Service’s on time delivery, and the Small Business Administration’s slow response to businesses attempting to access COVID-related programs.”

The House members ask President Biden the following questions and ask for a response by 28, 2022:

  1. How many agencies are fully staffed and in-person? Please list these agencies.
  2. Which agencies are partially staffed and in-person? Please list these agencies.
  3. Of agencies partially staffed, how many have greater than 50% teleworking?
  4. What is the total number of federal employees working remotely?
  5. Do these agencies have plans in place to return to in-person work? If not, what is impeding their return?

Over the last couple of months, U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) have also advocated for federal government workers to return to their duty stations.

In December 2021, Senator Wicker said that there is no real excuse for federal workers not to be back in the office.

“I have heard countless stories of Mississippians caught in the gears of federal bureaucracy because of office closures,” Wicker had said. “This federal shutdown has gone on long enough. Our government should be setting an example in returning to work, yet it seems intent on bringing up the rear. With 92 percent of the federal workforce now vaccinated, there is no real excuse for federal workers not to be back in the office.”

At the end of October, Senator Hyde-Smith joined a group of Republican senators in introducing the Having Employees Return to Duty (HERD) Act. The legislation would require federal government workers to return to their duty stations as COVID-19 vaccines and health management practices make it safer to resume in-person activities.

“We’ve learned a lot over the past 19 months through best practices, science, and vaccines for federal workers to return to their duty stations safely.  The limitations of prolonged absences from offices is affecting casework and other services on which seniors, veterans, and others in Mississippi rely,” Hyde-Smith said. “I think it makes sense for folks to get back to the office.”