Lapse in Funding: Memos to Staff

Messages From the Director

Jump to:

Downloads:

Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) information:


Update 8: Tuesday, January 15

We all remain passionate to the Peace Corps mission, even now as performing that mission is becoming more difficult.  We are not complete without all of you and, I personally appreciate the importance and value each of you give to the Peace Corps.

The snow day yesterday precluded a Director’s update, yet I will continue the communication as long as the lapse continues. 

All updates have been, and will be, posted on the agency’s website at https://www.peacecorps.gov/lapse-in-appropriations/staff/.  I encourage you to review the information provided in previous notices as they contain a wealth of information on a wide variety of topics, including unemployment, personal assistance programs, Thrift Savings Plan Loans, administration of the excepted employee lists and many other informative and helpful subjects.

Further, all notices are being sent to personal contact addresses recorded in the Peace Corps Emergency Notification System (PCENS) maintained by the Peace Corps’ Office of Safety and Security.  Please be sure to continue to check the agency’s website and watch for notifications.  Questions concerning PCENS communications may be addressed to [email protected].

Furloughed and Excepted Employees 

During a lapse in funding, certain functions and activities are legally permitted; others are not.  For those positions that are permitted, the individuals executing the positions become excepted staff.   These positions (and thus individuals filling the positions) can change as the critical needs of the agency change over time during the lapse. 

During the lapse, no US Direct Hire (USDH) employees, in DC, around the country, or at our 61 Posts are being paid, including both those excepted and furloughed. With the passage of The Government Employee Fair Treatment Act (S. 24) by Congress last Thursday, which is expected to be signed by the President, we are optimistic that everyone will be paid once the lapse is over.    

Excepted staff are working hard to cover emails and calls that need immediate responses and performing excepted tasks—and, even plants are being watered. 

We anticipate the resumption of normal operations, which I hope will be soon.  I assure you that once you return adequate time will be given to reacquaint yourselves with colleagues, catch-up on emails, phone calls and messages, read and discuss hand-over notes, and reorient yourself to the needed tasks.   

Human Resources Issues

The Office of Human Resources continues to receive emails and phone calls from staff with questions regarding Unemployment Insurance, benefits and paychecks once the lapse in funding is restored.   I am grateful to each of you for your patience with our HR team as they strive to answer your questions as quickly as possible.  Please continue to reach out with any questions or concerns you may have as we are here to assist you.  The best way to reach our office during the lapse in funding is by email:  [email protected].  You are also welcome to email the Chief Human Capital Officer directly at [email protected]  or by phone at 202-692-1940.

Our HR team continues to confer with the Office of Personnel Management every day for updates on common human capital issues affecting all of the impacted agencies.   Our payroll provider, the National Finance Center, is on standby and will do their best to issue pay as soon as we receive funding.   If the lapse continues into next week they may combine back pay with the salary to be paid on January 28th.  We will have more information on exact dates as soon as our funding is restored.   We know this is an incredibly stressful and frustrating time for all Peace Corps USDH employees and we will share additional information as soon as it becomes available.

If you are filing for Unemployment Insurance and need a copy of your official furlough notice please see the attached document.  Please contact the HR office for any assistance you may need to file your application.  

Please also remember to use the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if you need any help during this uncertain time.   This service is available to all Peace Corps employees—domestic and overseas—and can help you find support services you may need during this lapse in funding.  You can reach EAP at 1-888-993-7650.

Outside Employment Guidance

As a Peace Corps employee, you may engage in outside employment during the lapse, though you still must comply with the executive branch ethics rules. To make it easier for staff to figure out which types of outside employment opportunities might trigger an ethics issue, we want to provide some general guidance.  If there is no connection between the outside job and your Peace Corps job, then there should be no ethics issue raised and you should feel free to take on the outside job.  For example, being a Lyft or Uber driver has no possible connection with any Peace Corps position. 

An ethics issue would arise if there is a connection between the outside job and your Peace Corps job – such as, if you were doing the exact same thing that you do for Peace Corps, but instead for an outside entity, or you used information that you obtained from your Peace Corps job to do your outside job.  One hypothetical example of this is a SPIGA staff member who wants to work for one of the Peace Corps partners. 

If you have a question about how the ethics rules might impact a specific outside employment activity, please contact Colleen Wallace at [email protected].

Veterans Benefits Administration Assistance

For employees impacted by the lapse who are veterans, the Veterans Benefits Administration has put together a detailed list of VA benefits and points of contact for assistance.  You can find the list at https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/55619/.

Federal Agency Programs and Assistance

The Veterans Benefits Administration has also put together a list of programs and assistance offered by federal agencies and organizations to support all government employees impacted by the lapse. You can find the list at https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/55619/.

DC area utility companies and local counties offering assistance

Local utility companies are offering assistance to Federal employees impacted by the lapse in funding who are concerned about paying their utility bills.  Please see the attached for more utility information, along with additional information about assistance that local counties are offering.

Overseas Operations

We are maintaining our overseas operations to ensure full support for the health and safety of our Volunteers.  We continue to monitor the lapse and are in constant contact with the Office of Management and Budget.

Reminder for Clearance Holders to Report Foreign Travel

All employees who hold security clearances need to report all personal foreign travel, even if you are furloughed.  All foreign travel should be reported to [email protected] .

Also, for those who are planning air travel, in general, Transportation Security Administration staff are impacted by the lapse and you can expect delays in clearing airport security.

Cybersecurity Update

The agency is experiencing an increase in cybersecurity related activity during the funding lapse.  The Office of the Chief Information Officer is working to minimize inconveniences or disruptions, but some services may be impacted.  For example, the email function of PC Live has been temporarily disabled, but it will be restored as soon as possible.  Please remain vigilant and notify the Help Desk of phishing emails, malware, questionable activity, or any outages.  You may contact the help desk by email at [email protected] or call (202) 692-1000.

Office of the Inspector General

The OIG and the OIG Hotline are available during the lapse.  Any concerns regarding waste, mismanagement, fraud or unlawful activity involving Peace Corps programs or operations should be reported to the OIG.  Reports or complaints can also be made anonymously.  Concerns or complaints may be sent to the OIG Hotline by calling (202) 692-2915 or 1-800-233-5874; or emailing [email protected] .

Please feel free to disseminate this message broadly.  This message has been posted on the agency website with all prior messages here: https://www.peacecorps.gov/lapse-in-appropriations/staff/

Every day I think of each of you, and we will continue our regular updates with any additional information we may have. 

Most importantly, we look forward to welcoming everyone back to work when funding resumes.    


Update 7: Friday, January 11

For as long as the lapse in funding is in place, we will continue these regular updates.  Even as portions of the information in the updates do not change, I want you to be as informed as possible and to know I greatly appreciate your continued commitment to the Peace Corps.  

As before, this notification is being posted on the agency’s public website, and will be sent to personal contact addresses recorded in the Peace Corps Emergency Notification System (PCENS) maintained by the Peace Corps’ Office of Safety and Security.  Please be sure to continue to check the agency’s website and watch for notifications.  Questions concerning PCENS communications may be addressed to [email protected].

Back Pay after Furlough Ends

On Thursday, January 10, the Senate passed The Government Employee Fair Treatment Act (S. 24) that would guarantee all federal employees would be fully compensated once the ongoing lapse in funding concludes.  The Senate unanimously passed the bill, which stipulates that furloughed federal employees will be paid retroactively as soon as possible after the lapse ends.  Today, January 11, the House of Representatives also voted to pass the legislation.  The President has indicated he would sign the bill into law.

Administration of the Excepted Employee List

You may have questions about how the agency designates excepted employees and administers the excepted employee list.  The term “excepted staff” is a technical one – it does not reflect individual value or the exceptional dedication and commitment of each of you.

“Excepted activities” are defined as those reasonably necessary for the safety of human life or the protection of property in general.  The agency has excepted all overseas staff to perform any and all activities necessary to support the health and safety of our Volunteers.   At headquarters, we have reduced our staff to approximately 10% of the workforce to engage in excepted activities. 

At times, excepted staff may become ill or have personal needs that require attention away from the office.  When this happens, office heads, in consultation with the Chief Human Capital Officer, are authorized to replace the excepted employee who leaves (and is then furloughed) with another employee who was previously furloughed.  The Office of Human Resources then recalls the previously furloughed employee and adjusts the excepted employee list to accurately reflect this change.

In other instances, the agency may actually need to increase the excepted list by adding a previously furloughed employee in order to perform newly identified excepted activities or to add support for excepted activities already being performed.  For example, the Office of Health Services may identify a need for additional nurses to support Volunteers.  For such cases, previously furloughed staff are recalled.   Under this scenario, there is an actual increase in the number of excepted staff, and I must approve this action in advance. 

I know you are eager to return to work because you do so much each day to support the Peace Corps and its mission.  I miss you and all of the support that you give to make the Peace Corps the great institution it is.   Each of you is essential to our mission, goals, and success.   We are not a complete agency without everyone being here. 

Pay Period 26:  Official Pay-Date January 14, 2019

As noted in my last update, the lapse has continued beyond Pay Period 26, which ended on Saturday, January 5, 2019.  No employees will receive January 14 paychecks.  Employees will be paid when (i) Congress approves fiscal year 2019 appropriations for the Peace Corps, and (ii) in the case of furloughed employees, Congress authorizes back-pay (see earlier discussion on S.24).  Because of potential immediate financial hardship for some, I want to remind you again of possible sources of relief.

Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Withdrawal versus Loan

For those considering tapping into their TSP account to help tide them over, there are two ways to do so.  You can apply for a hardship withdrawal, or you can take out a general-purpose loan. Because there are implications for each, I recommend that you review the information posted on the TSP website (and attached to this notice for your convenience).

On January 8, the following notice was posted to the TSP website: 

Government Shutdown and Loan Payments — (January 8, 2019) The TSP allows for the suspension of loan payments when you go into non-pay status to prevent your loan from going into default. Normally, we require documentation from your agency or service. However, the TSP does not need documentation of your furlough at this time. If your loan payments were up to date prior to the furlough, missing one or two payments will not cause your loan to be in default. You can check the status of your loan by logging into My Account, selecting “TSP Loans,” and then selecting “Are my payments up to date?” Or you can call the ThriftLine at 1-877-968-3778 and speak to a Participant Service Representative.

As long as retroactive pay is approved, all missed loan payments will be submitted and posted to your loan. We will provide more information as the furlough continues or as events change.

Banks, Other Financial Institutions, and Phone Service Providers May Offer Relief

Many banks, other financial institutions, and phone service providers have posted information about making accommodations for federal employees impacted by the lapse.  Please check with your individual banks and financial institutions or phone service providers regarding possible accommodations.  In addition, OPM has also provided sample letters in its furlough lapse guidance that might be helpful.

Unemployment Benefits (Note Particularly Next to Last Paragraph in this Section)

This is a reminder that furloughed employees are now eligible to apply for unemployment benefits.  If you wish to file, do so with the Unemployment Office that correlates with your last official duty station. For example, if you work at Peace Corps Headquarters you will file for Unemployment with the Department of Employment Services in the District of Columbia.  However, if funding resumes in the near future, or if Congress authorizes back-pay, which it historically has done, you are required to pay back any unemployment benefits you received.  There is more detailed information on this topic at OPM’s website, www.opm.gov and at the Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance website, https://oui.doleta.gov/unemploy/

NOTE:  When you submit your Unemployment Claim you will need to provide them with as much information as possible. The DC Office of Employment Services also has a dedicated toll free line for Federal employees to file their claims.  That number is:  1-877-319-7346.

You should have the following information available when filing for benefits:

  • The Federal Identification Code (FIC) for Peace Corps is 677.  The Department of Labor recently clarified that applicants need to only use the first three digits of the FIC so we have updated this bullet to help you with your application.
  • Attach a copy of your most recent SF 50 (available via your EOPF account at https://eopf.opm.gov/peacecorps/ ) or submit copies of your Earnings and Leave Statements (also available through the National Finance Center’s Employee Portal at https://nfc.usda.gov/EPPS/index.aspx?ReturnURL=/epps/), fill out the attached SF-8 form, and return it to [email protected] (attached).  If you have any issues accessing either website please contact Peace Corps HR and they will help you with your application.

Please read the information regarding Unemployment Insurance available on the OPM and DOL sites to review frequently asked questions. There is one important item that I want to share with you.  During this difficult time the Unemployment Offices are suspending their requirement for Federal Employees to look for work during the furlough.  Typically this is a requirement for benefits but since this is an unusual situation UI offices have suspended this requirement for furloughed Federal Employees.      

You are also encouraged and welcome to send questions to [email protected] or to [email protected].   Do not hesitate to file if you are having difficulty during this time that you are not receiving a pay check.   You have the right to file and the HR team is here to help you navigate the application process and answer your questions.

Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEAF)

Although the FEEAF is not able to offer assistance to federal employees who have not received a paycheck because of a lapse in funding, the FEEAF may be of assistance to employees suffering tragedy or hardship, beyond not being paid due to the lapse.  FEEAF’s no-interest hardship loan program may offer some assistance.

In order to be eligible for a hardship loan, a federal employee must have suffered one of the following hardships within the three month period preceding a loan application:

  • Severe illness, injury, or dental emergency of the employee
  • Severe illness or injury of immediate family member
  • Death of employee’s immediate family member
  • Major loss/damage to primary residence due to disaster such as fire, flood, hurricane
  • Victim of domestic violence with immediate need for safe housing

Approved loans are disbursed by check payable to the creditor, not to the federal employee.

For more information, including an online loan application, please visit https://feea.org/our-programs/emergency-loans .

Outside Employment

As a Peace Corps employee, you may engage in outside employment during the lapse, though you still must comply with the executive branch ethics rules.  If you have a question about a specific employment activity, please contact Colleen Wallace at [email protected]

Personal Counseling Assistance – Employee Assistance Program

Our Employee Assistance Program remains available throughout the lapse.  Feel free to contact 1-888-993-7650.

Other Topics:

Reminder of Limitations on Activities during the Funding Lapse

I am reminding you again that during the lapse in funding, furloughed employees are not legally permitted to engage in any official activities.  You are legally prohibited from using your official or personal phones to conduct any agency business.  You may not log into the agency’s email system to check your email (even if you don’t respond to emails).  I know that each of you is concerned and dedicated, but please abide by this legal restriction. 

Overseas Staff Training (OST)

We are moving forward with plans to conduct our next OST session starting on February 4.

Volunteer Applications

Tuesday, January 15, is the deadline for the current round of applications, and the Office of Volunteer, Recruitment and Selection (VRS) is bringing in the Intake Team to review and process the applications.

Press Inquiries

If you receive any press inquiries on official matters, please refer them to Press Director, Matt Sheehey, [email protected]; (202) 692-2434.

Overseas Operations

Posts continue to perform all necessary activities to support the health, safety and security of our Volunteers.

The OCFO is continuing to work closely with CAOs and posts to minimize disruption.  OCFO will continue to send regular updates to posts to provide financial guidance during the lapse, including Q&As.  Any questions should be sent to Richard Swarttz, Chief Financial Officer, at [email protected]

Headquarters Duty Officers and Safety and Security Specialists are on duty and prepared to handle calls and consultations, so please do not hesitate to reach out as needed. 

The Chief Human Capital Officer, Traci DiMartini, is maintaining an up-to-date point-of-contact list for headquarters excepted staff.  This list is shared with the Office of Global Operations (OGO) and Regional management.  Regions can assist posts in identifying excepted staff across the agency to ensure that all inquiries from the field are expeditiously and properly routed.  The Associate Directors of each office are also excepted staff and serve as key contacts to identify staff in their sub-offices and units that are excepted, as well, and currently in the office to assist posts.  The Office of Information Technology (OIT) would like to remind Overseas staff to continue to submit requests for IT assistance through the normal channels:    

CFC

Although this is a stressful and challenging time for staff, I know that many of you remain committed to voluntary service and community work.   For your information, OPM has just announced that it is extending the CFC season for one month after the lapse concludes, so you can continue to log onto the CFC site and pledge volunteer hours and donations.  Your pledged hours can be performed anytime time in calendar year 2019.  I am pleased to inform you that, in the Peace Corps spirit, 172 donors have contributed $89,163.00 and pledged 1,332 volunteer hours!  The CFC website is www.cfcnca.org .

Office of the Inspector General

The OIG and the OIG Hotline are available during the lapse.  Any concerns regarding waste, mismanagement, fraud or unlawful activity involving Peace Corps programs or operations should be reported to the OIG.  Reports or complaints can also be made anonymously.  Concerns or complaints may be sent to the OIG Hotline by calling (202) 692-2915 or 1-800-233-5874; or emailing [email protected].

Please feel free to disseminate this message broadly.  This message has been posted on the agency website. 

Every day I think of each of you, and we will continue our regular updates with any additional information we have. 

 Most importantly, we look forward to welcoming everyone back to work when funding resumes.    


Update 6: Wednesday, January 9

For as long as the lapse in funding is in place, we will continue these regular updates.  Even as most information in the updates does not change, I want you to be as informed as possible and to know I greatly appreciate your continued commitment to the Peace Corps.  

As before, this notification is being posted on the agency’s public website, and will be sent to personal contact addresses recorded in the Peace Corps Emergency Notification System (PCENS) maintained by the Peace Corps’ Office of Safety and Security.  Please be sure to continue to check the agency’s website and watch for notifications.  Questions concerning PCENS communications may be addressed to [email protected].

Pay Period 26:  Official Pay-Date January 14, 2019

Unfortunately, because the lapse has continued beyond Pay Period 26, which ended on Saturday, January 5, 2019, both furloughed and excepted employees will not receive January 14 paychecks.  As we are aware, paychecks can only be paid when (i) the U.S. Congress approves 2019 appropriations for the Peace Corps; and (ii) in the case of furloughed employees, the Congress authorizes back-pay.  Because of potential immediate financial hardship for some, here is some information about possible sources of relief. 

Banks and Other Financial Institutions May Offer Relief

Many banks and other financial institutions have posted information about making accommodations for federal employees impacted by the lapse.  Please check with your individual banks and financial institutions regarding possible accommodations.

Unemployment Benefits

This is a reminder that furloughed employees are now eligible to apply for unemployment benefits.  If you wish to file, do so with the Unemployment Office that correlates with your last official duty station. For example, if you work at Peace Corps Headquarters you will file for Unemployment with the Department of Employment Services in the District of Columbia.  However, if funding resumes in the near future, or if Congress authorizes back-pay, which it historically has done, you are required to pay back any unemployment benefits you received.  There is more detailed information on this topic at OPM’s website, www.opm.gov and at the Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance website, https://oui.doleta.gov/unemploy/

NOTE:  When you submit your Unemployment Claim you will need to provide them with as much information as possible. This includes:

Please read the information regarding Unemployment Insurance available on the OPM and DOL sites to review frequently asked questions.    You are also encouraged and welcome to send questions to [email protected] or to [email protected].

Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEAF)

Although the FEEAF is not able to offer assistance to federal employees who have not received a paycheck because of a lapse in funding, the FEEAF may be of assistance to employees suffering tragedy or hardship, beyond not being paid due to the lapse.  FEEAF’s no-interest hardship loan program may offer some assistance.

In order to be eligible for a hardship loan, a federal employee must have suffered one of the following hardships within the three month period preceding a loan application:

  • Severe illness, injury, or dental emergency of the employee
  • Severe illness or injury of immediate family member
  • Death of employee’s immediate family member
  • Major loss/damage to primary residence due to disaster such as fire, flood, hurricane
  • Victim of domestic violence with immediate need for safe housing

Approved loans are disbursed by check payable to the creditor, not to the federal employee.

For more information, including an online loan application, please visit https://feea.org/our-programs/emergency-loans .

Outside Employment

As a Peace Corps employee, you may engage in outside employment during the lapse, though you still must comply with the executive branch ethics rules.  If you have a question about a specific employment activity, please contact Colleen Wallace at [email protected]

Back Pay After Furlough Ends

Individual payroll payments after normal funding resumes is legislated by the Congress.  Historically, the Congress has provided back pay for furloughed employees.

Personal Counseling Assistance – Employee Assistance Program

Our Employee Assistance Program remains available throughout the lapse.  Feel free to contact 1-888-993-7650.

Other Topics:

Reminder of Limitations on Activities during the Funding Lapse

I am reminding you again that during the lapse in funding, furloughed employees are not legally permitted to engage in any official activities.  You are legally prohibited from using your official or personal phones to conduct any agency business.  You may not log into the agency’s email system to check your email (even if you don’t respond to emails).  I know that each of you is concerned and dedicated, but please abide by this legal restriction. 

Overseas Operations

Posts continue to perform all necessary activities to support the health, safety and security of our Volunteers.

The OCFO is continuing to work closely with CAOs and posts to minimize disruption.  OCFO will continue to send regular updates to posts to provide financial guidance during the lapse, including Q&As.  Any questions should be sent to Andrew Pierce, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, at [email protected].

Headquarters Duty Officers and Safety and Security Specialists are on duty and prepared to handle calls and consultations, so please do not hesitate to reach out as needed. 

The Chief Human Capital Officer, Traci DiMartini, is maintaining an up-to-date point-of-contact list for headquarters excepted staff.  This list is shared with the Office of Global Operations (OGO) and Regional management.  Regions can assist posts in identifying excepted staff across the agency to ensure that all inquiries from the field are expeditiously and properly routed.  The Associate Directors of each office are also excepted staff and serve as key contacts to identify staff in their sub-offices and units that are excepted, as well, and currently in the office to assist posts.    

CFC

Although this is a stressful and challenging time for staff, I know that many of you remain committed to voluntary service and community work.   The last day to log onto the CFC site and pledge volunteer hours is January 11 for those of you who may wish to do so.  Your pledged hours can be performed anytime time in calendar year 2019.  I am pleased to inform you that, in the Peace Corps spirit, 172 donors have contributed $89,163.00 and pledged 1,332 volunteer hours!  The CFC website is www.cfcnca.org .

Office of the Inspector General

The OIG and the OIG Hotline are available during the lapse.  Any concerns regarding waste, mismanagement, fraud or unlawful activity involving Peace Corps programs or operations should be reported to the OIG.  Reports or complaints can also be made anonymously.  Concerns or complaints may be sent to the OIG Hotline by calling (202) 692-2915 or 1-800-233-5874; or emailing [email protected] .

Please feel free to disseminate this message broadly.  This message has been posted on the agency website. 

Every day I think of each of you, and we will continue our regular updates with any additional information we have. 

Importantly, we look forward to welcoming everyone back to work when funding resumes.  


Update 5: Monday, January 7

Thank you all for your commitment and patience as the lapse in funding continues. While some of this information may be repetitive, I wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with the updated information we currently have.

These notifications are being posted on the agency’s public website, and they are being sent to personal contact addresses recorded in the Peace Corps Emergency Notification System (PCENS) maintained by the Peace Corps’ Office of Safety and Security.  Please be sure to continue to check the agency’s website and watch for notifications.  Questions concerning PCENS communications may be addressed to [email protected].

Here is the latest information as of January 7:

Reminder of Limitations on Activities during the Funding Lapse

During the lapse in funding only “excepted activities” may be performed by designated staff on the “excepted list.”   You can find the entire Lapse Plan on the agency website.

Furloughed employees are not legally permitted to engage in any official activities.  This is a broad restriction and includes using your official or personal phones for any agency business, or logging into the agency’s email system to check your email (even if you don’t actually respond to emails). 

All overseas staff are deemed “excepted employees” to ensure appropriate levels of support for Volunteers and to ensure their health, safety, and well-being.  Posts should continue to operate in accordance with funding guidance that has been sent by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) (see e-mail reminder sent January 2, 2019).  Please remember all Excepted staff, both domestic and overseas, who are required to work during the lapse in funding will not be paid until funding resumes.     

Travel during Appropriations Lapse

In the Director’s second update on the funding lapse, sent on December 28, 2018, guidance was provided on travel. If you have plans for official travel but are unsure whether it has been approved, please reach out either to your office point of contact at HQ or Post, or to Andrew Pierce, Deputy Chief Financial Officer at [email protected].

Training

The only training that will go forward during the lapse is training critical to the continued operations of overseas activities and support, such as FACT training.  The CFO will continue to work with offices to ensure proper funding codes for this limited type of training.

Routine training not related to the above during the lapse of funding must be cancelled or rescheduled. Furloughed staff may not attend trainings in their personal capacities. Again, if you have questions, please contact the OCFO.    

Staging

The agency continues to conduct scheduled staging events in order to ensure that Invitees are prepared to assume their duties as Trainees in respective countries of assignment.  The OCFO is coordinating with OGO and Regions to ensure proper fiscal coding. 

Overseas Payments

Volunteer and other overseas payments, other than salaries for direct hires, are continuing to be processed in accordance with our agency lapse plan. Of note, this includes Volunteer allowances and reimbursements and personal service contractors (PSC) payroll.

Human Resource, Payroll and Benefits, and Other Issues

Payroll and Benefits Questions

As noted in prior updates, all time, attendance, human resources, payroll and benefits questions should be sent to [email protected] during the furlough.  The Office of Human Resources is monitoring this mailbox and will respond to your message. You are also welcome to send questions directly to the Chief Human Capital Officer, Traci DiMartini at [email protected].

Unemployment Benefits

This is a reminder that furloughed employees are now eligible to apply for unemployment benefits.  Employees who wish to file should do so with the Unemployment Office that correlates with your last official duty station. For example, if you work at Peace Corps Headquarters you will file for Unemployment with the Department of Employment Services in the District of Columbia.  Please be advised, however, if funding resumes in the near future, or if Congress authorizes back-pay, which it historically has done, you would be required to pay back any unemployment benefits you received.  There is more detailed information on this topic at OPM’s website, www.opm.gov and at the Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance website, https://oui.doleta.gov/unemploy/

NOTE:  When you submit your Unemployment Claim you will need to provide them with as much information as possible. This includes:

  • The Federal Identification Code (FIC) for Peace Corps is 6770001
  • Attach a copy of your most recent SF 50 (available at Employee Express) or submit copies of your Earnings and Leave Statements (also available through Employee Express)
  • Fill out the SF-8 form [PDF] and return it to [email protected].

Please read the information regarding Unemployment Insurance [PDF] available on the OPM and DOL sites to review frequently asked questions.    You are also encouraged and welcome to send questions to [email protected] or to [email protected]

Time and Attendance during Lapse

Until the lapse ends, HR will be coding all timecards for domestic and overseas staff with appropriate furlough codes for employees on furlough, including all holidays, annual leave or other approved leave during the furlough.  There is no need for employees or regular timekeepers to validate or certify timecards during the lapse.  Again, excepted employees serving during the lapse are encouraged to keep track of their specific hours of service in WebTA so that correct hours of service can be entered once funding is restored and corrected timecards can be submitted.

Restored Use-or-Lose Leave Lost During Lapse

The Director has determined that employees on scheduled use-or-lose leave during the lapse period from December 24, 2018 to January 5, 2019 will have this leave restored once funding resumes.  The Office of Human Resources will transmit instructions on how to request restoration of this leave when the furlough is over.

Overseas Support Training (OST)

We are hopeful that funding will resume in order for the agency to conduct the OST session currently scheduled to begin February 4, 2019.

Health Benefits and Open Season Elections

Please be assured that your health benefits will continue during the lapse.  Further, for those of you who may have changed enrollment or enrolled during the recent open season for health benefits, your enrollments have been completed.  If anyone has a life changing event (“LCE”), such as the birth of a child, requiring any changes in your benefits enrollment code, please contact HR’s Payroll and Benefits at the email address above.

Here are a few additional updates regarding Federal Benefits:

1)    For current employees, enrollment in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program continues for up to a year in a non-pay status, and the government continues to pay its share of the contribution. The effective date of an open season enrollment change will still be the first day of the first full pay period in January for employees (Jan. 6 for most workers) and Jan. 1 for retirees.

2)    Coverage under the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance program continues for a year for those in a non-pay status, without cost to the employee.

3)    Health care expenses covered under flexible spending accounts will not be reimbursed until the employee returns to a pay status. Eligible dependent care expenses incurred during the non-pay status may be reimbursed up to whatever balance is in the employee's dependent care account, as long as the expenses incurred during the non-pay status allow the employee (or employee's spouse if married) to work, look for work, or attend school full-time.  Coverage under the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program continues as long as premiums are paid. If Long Term Care Partners, which manages the program, does not receive any premiums for three consecutive pay periods, they will begin directly billing the enrollee. Coverage under the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program will continue, but employees will get a direct bill for past due premiums if no premium is paid for two consecutive pay periods.

4)    For information on the effect of furloughs on your Thrift Savings Plan account, please refer to the attached fact sheet from the Thrift Savings Plan. You can make inter-fund transfers of your existing account balance during the furlough period, and you may be entitled to make up contributions when you return to a pay status. You can request an in-service withdrawal if you are age 59 ½ or older or if you are experiencing a financial hardship.

Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEAF)

Although the FEEAF is not able to offer assistance to federal employees who have not received a paycheck because of a lapse in funding, the FEEAF may be of assistance to employees suffering tragedy or hardship, beyond not being paid due to the lapse.  FEEAF’s no-interest hardship loan program may offer some assistance.

In order to be eligible for a hardship loan, a federal employee must have suffered one of the following hardships within the three month period preceding a loan application:

  • Severe illness, injury, or dental emergency of the employee
  • Severe illness or injury of immediate family member
  • Death of employee’s immediate family member
  • Major loss/damage to primary residence due to disaster such as fire, flood, hurricane
  • Victim of domestic violence with immediate need for safe housing

Approved loans are disbursed by check payable to the creditor, not to the federal employee.

For more information, including an online loan application, please visit https://feea.org/our-programs/emergency-loans.

Personal Counseling Assistance – Employee Assistance Program

I know that this continues to be an uncertain and unsettling time for many of you.  Our Employee Assistance Program remains available throughout the lapse.  Feel free to contact 1-888-993-7650.

Please feel free to disseminate this message broadly.  This message has been posted on the agency website. 

For those of you who may be interested, there have been announcements from different companies, such as restaurants, offering special deals for federal employees impacted by the lapse.   The ethics rules do not prohibit staff from taking part in these deals. 

Peace Corps employees may engage in outside employment during the lapse.  The ethics rules still apply.  If you have a question about a specific employment activity, please feel free to contact Colleen Wallace at [email protected].  

We are thinking of each and every one of you, and we will continue regular updates as additional information is available.  We look forward to welcoming everyone back to work when funding resumes, and want you to know that you are in our thoughts.


Overseas notice: Monday, January 7

I would like to take a moment to thank all of our Peace Corps field staff for your hard work during this funding lapse.  I understand that it is very challenging to operate during these uncertain times, and we are making every effort to answer questions and communicate to staff as we have answers.  The agency’s public website as well as the Peace Corps Emergency Notification System (PCENS) maintained by the Peace Corps’ Office of Safety and Security are being used to post general answers that affect most PC staff; however, we wanted to address concerns field staff have expressed specifically.   

Overseas Staff during the Funding Lapse

The Peace Corps is making every effort to keep operations in the field as normal as possible in alignment with our lapse plan, which is on the agency website.

All direct hire staff overseas are on the “excepted list” to ensure that all necessary operations for the health and safety of our Volunteers continues.  Like “excepted staff” at Headquarters, overseas direct hire staff will not be compensated for their services until funding resumes.

However, all personal services contractors (PSCs) at posts will be paid out of obligations for contracts created or renewed prior to the lapse in funding.  Those PSC contracts created or renewed during the lapse will be paid for with carryover funding.  If PSC contracts need to be renewed, they should be funded with FY 2018 carryover funds for three (3) pay periods.  The Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) is working closely with the Department of State on funding Foreign Service National (FSN) payroll, and will follow up with further guidance to posts shortly.

Posts should continue to operate in accordance with funding guidance that has been sent by OCFO (see e-mail reminder sent January 2, 2019).

Additional Funding

Any post that requires additional FY18 funding authority should contact [email protected] and their Regional Chief Administrative Officer (CAO).

Travel during Appropriations Lapse

In the Director’s second update on the funding lapse, sent on December 28, 2018, guidance was provided on travel.  If you have plans for official travel but are unsure whether it has been approved, please reach out either to your office point of contact at HQ or Post, or to Andrew Pierce, Deputy Chief Financial Officer at [email protected].  Travel that was planned in your post’s FY19 operating plan should continue and be funded with FY18 carryover funds, including PCSSO travel.  Post should consult with Regions for any training travel to other countries.

Training

The only training that will go forward during the lapse is training critical to the continued operations of overseas activities and support, such as the FACT training.  OCFO will continue to work with offices to ensure proper funding for this limited type of training. 

Routine training not related to the above during the lapse of funding must be cancelled or rescheduled.

Programming, Training, and Evaluation (PTE) Alignment

Until further notice, Overseas Programming and Training Support (OPATS) related activity with respect to PTE alignment is on hold as requisite HQ staff are on furlough. 

Staging

The agency continues to conduct scheduled staging events in order to ensure that Invitees are prepared to assume their duties as Trainees in respective countries of assignment.  OCFO is coordinating with OGO and Regions to ensure proper fiscal coding.

Overseas Payments

Volunteer and other overseas payments, other than salaries for direct hires, are continuing to be processed in accordance with our agency lapse plan.  Of note, this includes Volunteer allowances and reimbursements and personal service contractors (PSC) payroll.

Audits

Office of Inspector General audits and evaluations will be addressed individually with each impacted post.

Duty Officers and Designated Security Staff at Headquarters

Please be assured that all duty officer and designated security specialist staff at Headquarters continue to operate in order to ensure appropriate support and response to the field.

Human Resource, Payroll and Benefits, and Other Issues

Payroll and Benefits Questions

As noted in prior updates, all time, attendance, human resources, payroll and benefits questions should be sent to [email protected] during the furlough.  The Office of Human Resources is monitoring this mailbox and will respond to your message.  You are also welcome to send questions directly to the Chief Human Capital Officer, Traci DiMartini at [email protected]

Time and Attendance during Lapse

Until the lapse ends, HR will be coding all timecards for domestic and overseas staff with appropriate furlough codes for employees on furlough, including all holidays, annual leave or other approved leave during the furlough.  There is no need for employees or regular timekeepers to complete timecards during the lapse.  Again, excepted employees serving during the lapse are encouraged to keep track of their specific hours of service in WebTA so that correct hours of service can be entered once funding is restored and corrected timecards can be submitted.

Restored Use-or-Lose Leave Lost During Lapse

The Director has determined that employees on scheduled use-or-lose leave during the lapse period from December 24, 2018 to January 5, 2019 will have this leave restored once funding resumes.

Overseas Staff Training (OST)

We are hopeful that funding will resume in order for the agency to conduct the OST session currently scheduled to begin February 4, 2019.

Health Benefits and Open Season Elections

Please be assured that your health benefits will continue during the lapse.  Further, for those of you who may have changed enrollment or enrolled during the recent open season for health benefits, your enrollments have been completed.  If anyone has a life changing event (“LCE”), such as the birth of a child, requiring any changes in your benefits enrollment code, please contact HR’s Payroll and Benefits at the email address above.

Here are a few additional updates regarding Federal Benefits:

1)    For current employees, enrollment in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program continues for up to a year in a non-pay status, and the government continues to pay its share of the contribution.  The effective date of an open season enrollment change will still be the first day of the first full pay period in January for employees (Jan. 6 for most workers) and Jan. 1 for retirees.

2)    Coverage under the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance program continues for a year for those in a non-pay status, without cost to the employee.

3)    Health care expenses covered under flexible spending accounts will not be reimbursed until the employee returns to a pay status.  Eligible dependent care expenses incurred during the non-pay status may be reimbursed up to whatever balance is in the employee's dependent care account, as long as the expenses incurred during the non-pay status allow the employee (or employee's spouse if married) to work, look for work, or attend school full-time.  Coverage under the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program continues as long as premiums are paid.  If Long Term Care Partners, which manages the program, does not receive any premiums for three consecutive pay periods, they will begin directly billing the enrollee.  Coverage under the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program will continue, but employees will get a direct bill for past due premiums if no premium is paid for two consecutive pay periods.

4)    For information on the effect of furloughs on your Thrift Savings Plan account, please refer to the attached fact sheet from the Thrift Savings Plan.  You can make inter-fund transfers of your existing account balance during the furlough period, and you may be entitled to make up contributions when you return to a pay status.  You can request an in-service withdrawal if you are age 59 ½ or older or if you are experiencing a financial hardship.

Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEAF)

Although the FEEAF is not able to offer assistance to federal employees who have not received a paycheck because of a lapse in funding, the FEEAF may be of assistance to employees suffering tragedy or hardship, beyond not being paid due to the lapse.  FEEAF’s no-interest hardship loan program may offer some assistance.

In order to be eligible for a hardship loan, a federal employee must have suffered one of the following hardships within the three month period preceding a loan application:

  • Severe illness, injury, or dental emergency of the employee
  • Severe illness or injury of immediate family member
  • Death of employee’s immediate family member
  • Major loss/damage to primary residence due to disaster such as fire, flood, hurricane
  • Victim of domestic violence with immediate need for safe housing

Approved loans are disbursed by check payable to the creditor, not to the federal employee.

For more information, including an online loan application, please visit https://feea.org/our-programs/emergency-loans.

Personal Counseling Assistance – Employee Assistance Program

I know that this continues to be an uncertain and unsettling time for many of you.  Our Employee Assistance Program remains available throughout the lapse.  Feel free to contact 1-888-993-7650.

Please feel free to disseminate this message broadly.  This message has been posted on the agency website. 

We are thinking of each and every one of you, and we will continue regular updates as additional information is available. 

Thank you for your extraordinary commitment to service and to our very special agency. 


Update 4: Friday, January 4

Thank you all for your on-going commitment and patience.   The lapse in funding continues, as I am  sure you are aware, and I wanted to take another opportunity to provide you with some updated information.

These notifications are being posted on the agency’s public website, and they are being sent to personal contact addresses recorded in the Peace Corps Emergency Notification System (PCENS) maintained by the Peace Corps’ Office of Safety and Security.  Please be sure to continue to check the agency’s website and watch for notifications.  Questions concerning PCENS communications may be addressed to [email protected].

Here is the latest information as of January 4:

Reminder of Limitations on Activities during the Appropriations Lapse

During the lapse in funding only “excepted activities” may be performed by designated staff on the “excepted list.”   You can find the entire Lapse Plan on the agency website.

Furloughed employees are not legally permitted to engage in any official activities.  This is a broad restriction and includes using your official or personal phones for any agency business, or logging into the agency’s email system to check your email (even if you don’t actually respond to emails).  Agency records indicate that a significant number of furloughed employees continue to log into their email accounts.  This is not legally permissible, and we must ask that you stop.

All overseas staff are deemed “excepted employees” to ensure appropriate levels of support for Volunteers and to ensure their health, safety, and well-being.  Posts should continue to operate in accordance with funding guidance that has been sent by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) (see OCFO e-mail reminder sent January 2, 2019)

Travel during Appropriations Lapse

In the Director’s second update on the funding lapse, sent on December 28, 2018, guidance was provided on travel. If you have plans for official travel but are unsure whether it has been approved, please reach out either to your office point of contact at HQ or Post, or to Andrew Pierce, Deputy Chief Financial Officer at [email protected].

Overseas Payments

Volunteer and other overseas payments, other than salaries for direct hires, are continuing to be processed in accordance with our agency lapse plan. Of note, this includes Volunteer allowances and reimbursements and personal service contractors (PSC) payroll.

Human Resource, Payroll and Benefits, and Other Issues

Payroll and Benefits Questions

As noted in prior updates, all time, attendance, human resources, payroll and benefits questions should be sent to [email protected] during the furlough.  The Office of Human Resources is monitoring this mailbox and will respond to your message. You are also welcome to send questions directly to the Chief Human Capital Officer, Traci DiMartini at [email protected]

Time and Attendance during Lapse

Until the lapse ends, HR will be coding all timecards for domestic and overseas staff with appropriate furlough codes for employees on furlough, including all holidays, annual leave or other approved leave during the furlough.  There is no need for employees or regular timekeepers to complete timecards during the lapse.  Again, excepted employees serving during the lapse are encouraged to keep track of their specific hours of service in WebTA so that correct hours of service can be entered once funding is restored and corrected timecards can be submitted.

Pay

The Office of Human Resources, Chief Financial Officer, General Counsel and the Director are in close contact with the Office of Management and Budget and Office of Personnel  Management.  Everyone is aware that the continued lapse in funding could impact the next pay date which is Monday, January 14th for Peace Corps.  We will have more specific information to share after 12:00 PM Tuesday, January 8th should the furlough extend through that time. Please know that the payroll providers are taking extraordinary measures to turn around pay as quickly as possible should there be a delay in the January 14th checks. 

Unemployment Benefits

This is a reminder that furloughed employees would not be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits until a full pay period after pay period 25 (your last check/deposit).  On January 7, furloughed employees are eligible to apply for unemployment benefits in the state in which they reside.   Please be advised, however, if funding resumes in the near future, or if Congress authorizes back-pay, which it historically has done, you would be required to pay back any unemployment benefits you received.  There is more detailed information on this topic at OPM’s website, www.opm.gov.

Health Benefits and Open Season Elections

Please be assured that your health benefits will continue during the lapse.  Further, for those of you who may have changed enrollment or enrolled during the recent open season for health benefits, your enrollments have been completed.  If anyone has a life changing event (“LCE”), such as the birth of a child, requiring any changes in your benefits enrollment code, please contact HR’s Payroll and Benefits at the email address above.

Here are a few additional updates regarding Federal Benefits:

1)      For current employees, enrollment in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program continues for up to a year in a non-pay status, and the government continues to pay its share of the contribution. The effective date of an open season enrollment change will still be the first day of the first full pay period in January for employees (Jan. 6 for most workers) and Jan. 1 for retirees.

2)      Coverage under the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance program continues for a year for those in a non-pay status, without cost to the employee.

3)      Health care expenses covered under flexible spending accounts will not be reimbursed until the employee returns to a pay status. Eligible dependent care expenses incurred during the non-pay status may be reimbursed up to whatever balance is in the employee's dependent care account, as long as the expenses incurred during the non-pay status allow the employee (or employee's spouse if married) to work, look for work, or attend school full-time.  Coverage under the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program continues as long as premiums are paid. If Long Term Care Partners, which manages the program, does not receive any premiums for three consecutive pay periods, they will begin directly billing the enrollee. Coverage under the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program will continue, but employees will get a direct bill for past due premiums if no premium is paid for two consecutive pay periods.

4)      For information on the effect of furloughs on your Thrift Savings Plan account, please refer to the attached fact sheet from the Thrift Savings Plan [PDF]. You can make inter-fund transfers of your existing account balance during the furlough period, and you may be entitled to make up contributions when you return to a pay status. You can request an in-service withdrawal if you are age 59 ½ or older or if you are experiencing a financial hardship.

Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEAF)

Although the FEEAF is not able to offer assistance to federal employees who have not received a paycheck because of a lapse in funding, the FEEAF may be of assistance to employees suffering tragedy or hardship, beyond not being paid due to the lapse.  FEEAF’s no-interest hardship loan program may offer some assistance.

In order to be eligible for a hardship loan, a federal employee must have suffered one of the following hardships within the three month period preceding a loan application:

  • Severe illness, injury, or dental emergency of the employee
  • Severe illness or injury of immediate family member
  • Death of employee’s immediate family member
  • Major loss/damage to primary residence due to disaster such as fire, flood, hurricane
  • Victim of domestic violence with immediate need for safe housing

Approved loans are disbursed by check payable to the creditor, not to the federal employee.

For more information, including an online loan application, please visit https://feea.org/our-programs/emergency-loans.

Combined Federal Campaign Activities

CFC activities sponsored by or occurring at the agency are not permitted during the shutdown.  However, furloughed employees may engage in voluntary activities, such as serving at a food bank, during the lapse.   When funding resumes, official agency CFC activities will resume.

Personal Counseling Assistance – Employee Assistance Program

I know that this continues to be an uncertain and unsettling time for many of you.  Our Employee Assistance Program remains available throughout the lapse.  Feel free to contact 1-888-993-7650.

Please feel free to disseminate this message broadly.  This message has been posted on the agency website. 

For those of you who may be interested, there have been announcements from different companies, such as restaurants, offering special deals for federal employees impacted by the lapse.   The ethics rules do not prohibit staff from taking part in these deals. 

We are thinking of each and every one of you, and we will continue regular updates as additional information is available.  We look forward to welcoming everyone back to work when funding resumes, and want you to know that you are in our thoughts.

Thank you for your extraordinary commitment to service and to our very special agency.  You are what makes Peace Corps so special and Jody and I are honored to lead the agency during this challenging period.


Update 3: Monday, December 31

Thank you all for your on-going commitment to supporting the Peace Corps, the Volunteers, and each other.

The lapse in funding continues and I know this is raising questions and concerns for each of you.   As promised, we will continue to share new information as we receive it.

Here is the latest information as of December 31:

Reminder of Limitations on Activities During the Lapse

During the lapse in funding only “excepted activities” may be performed by designated staff on the “excepted list.”   You can find the entire Lapse Plan on the agency website.

Furloughed employees are not legally permitted to engage in any official activities.  This is a broad restriction and includes using your official or personal phones for any agency business and logging onto the agency’s email system. 

I know that you are anxious to be informed about the agency’s activities and this is why we are sending out regular updates.   These notifications are being posted on the agency’s public website, and they are being sent to personal contact addresses recorded in the Peace Corps Emergency Notification System (PCENS) maintained by the Peace Corps’ Office of Safety and Security.  Please be sure to continue to check the agency’s website and watch for personal notifications. 

Questions concerning PCENS communications may be addressed to [email protected].

Human Resource, Payroll and Benefits, and Other Issues

The Chief Human Capital Officer continues to maintain regular contact with OMB and OPM for updates and will update everyone accordingly.

Pay

All employees should have received pay on their last regularly scheduled pay date (December 31) for pay period 25, ending December 22.  The next scheduled pay date is January 14  and covers the furlough period. 

Time and Attendance During Lapse

Until the lapse ends, HR will be coding all timecards with appropriate furlough codes for employees on furlough, including all holidays, annual leave or other approved leave during the furlough.  Excepted employees serving during the lapse are encouraged to keep track of their specific hours of service in WebTA so that correct hours of service can be entered once funding is restored and corrected timecards can be submitted.

Use or Lose Leave

For employees who were scheduled to be on use or lose leave during the furlough, the agency continues to explore legal options for restoring use or lose leave. We will provide additional guidance when the lapse is over and will keep you updated.

News Year’s Day

Although January 1 is an official Holiday, all furloughed employees will continue in furlough status.  Excepted employees are not required to come into the building unless absolutely necessary to perform an excepted activity that cannot be done by telework.  All excepted employees should be on standby in the event of an emergency.   If any matter arises that necessitates action and it can be handled via telework, please conduct your agency business by telework. 

Unemployment Benefits

Many have inquired about unemployment benefits.  Furloughed employees would not be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits until a full pay period after pay period 25 (your last check/deposit).  On January 7, furloughed employees would be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits in the state in which they reside.   Please be advised, however, if funding resumes in the near future, or if Congress authorizes backpay, which it historically has done, you would be required to pay back any unemployment benefits you received.  There is more detailed information on this topic at OPM’s website, www.opm.gov.

HR continues to have regular communications with OPM and OMB and will provide further updates as soon as we have additional information.

As noted in prior updates, all payroll and benefits questions should be sent to

[email protected].  You are also welcome to send questions directly to the Chief Human Capital Officer, Traci DiMartini at [email protected].

Personal Counseling Assistance – Employee Assistance Program

I know that this continues to be an uncertain and unsettling time for many of you.  Our Employee Assistance Program remains available throughout the lapse.  Feel free to contact 1-888-993-7650.

Please feel free to disseminate this message broadly.  This message has been posted on the agency website. 

For those of you who may be interested, there have been announcements from different companies, such as restaurants, offering special deals for federal employees impacted by the lapse.   The ethics rules do not prohibit staff from taking part in these deals. 

I am thinking of each and every one of you, and we will continue regular updates as additional information is available.

Thank you for your extraordinary commitment to service and to our very special agency.


Update 2: Friday, December 28

Thank you all for your commitment to supporting Peace Corps, the Volunteers, and each other.

I know this lapse is unsettling, and even with these continuing updates, some questions remain unanswered.  However, to be as responsive as possible, we will continue our communication with new information as we receive it.

Here is the latest information on activities and decisions as of December 28.

Modification Section 8F of the Agency Lapse Plan

Our Lapse Plan (the Plan) has been modified to permit heads of offices to substitute a furloughed employee for one on the excepted list without approval by the Agency Director or designee.

However, before recalling a furloughed employee to replace an excepted employee, the office head must first notify the Chief Human Capital Officer so that her office can issue a recall notice to the furloughed employee and then update the “Excepted Employee” list.

Any requests to increase the total number of excepted employees, in any particular office, must still be cleared by the Director or designee. You can find the entire Lapse Plan on the agency website.

Travel and Other Activities During Lapse of Appropriations

All non-essential official travel or other activity that has been already approved and funded may proceed; for example, previously approved and funded home leave or staging activities.  However, if this travel or activity requires a recall of a furloughed employee or will require additional funding not already approved and obligated, notify the Chief Human Capital Officer and the Chief Financial Officer to ensure that appropriate fiscal year funds are recorded.  Also, as noted, if a recall results in a staff increase on the excepted list, the Director must approve.

Any non-essential travel or other activity not previously approved and funded must be requested by using the following template:

Request to Approve and Fund Activity During Lapse of Appropriations [DOC]

These requests will be reviewed and approved by the Director or designee.  This is similar to guidance at other affected Government Agencies.

This limitation ensures legal compliance with laws governing the lapse and ensures that resources from our prior fiscal year (“carryover funds”) are limited to mission critical purposes.  Although I am hopeful the lapse in funding will soon be resolved, there is no certainty, and we must continue to be prudent managers of available resources to ensure adequate support for Volunteers and field operations.

Important: review and approval for any travel or activity related to volunteer health or safety should proceed expeditiously and is not subject to these temporary procedures.

Routine Administrative Matters

All excepted staff, including anyone being recalled from furlough to assume excepted activities, should update your email and voicemail messages to reflect your excepted status.

Please take measures to ensure your email and voicemail inboxes are not full.  You may need to delete even deleted messages from your voicemail archive.

As a further helpful reminder you may remotely check your voicemail messages as follows:

  1. Dial your full number.
  2. Press the star key (*) when you hear your greeting and enter your 10 digit phone number followed by #.
  3. Enter your voicemail PIN and press #.

Human Resource, Payroll, and Benefits Issues

The Chief Human Capital Officer is maintaining regular contact with OMB and OPM for updates and will update everyone accordingly.

As noted in my first update, all payroll and benefits questions should be sent to [email protected].  You are also welcome to send questions directly to the Chief Human Capital Officer, Traci DiMartini at [email protected].

Agency Financial Management Matters

All questions regarding budgeting, accounting or other financial matters should be directed to Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Andrew Pierce at [email protected].

Personal Counseling Assistance – Employee Assistance Program

I know that this is an uncertain and unsettling time for many of you.  Our Employee Assistance Program remains available throughout the lapse.  Feel free to contact 1-888-993-7650.

Also, the Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection has updated the website to inform applicants that the January 1 application is still open and encourages people to continue to apply.

I am thinking of each and every one of you, and we will continue regular updates as additional information is available.

Thank you for your extraordinary commitment to service and to our very special agency.


Update 1: Thursday, December 27

Even during this holiday season, the lapse in funding is on our minds.  I hope to answer key questions you have with this communication and will continue to do so as needed until the lapse ends.

Payroll

Whether you are one of the excepted staff at headquarters or at posts, or one of the furloughed staff at headquarters or our recruiting offices, I know that you are concerned about the effect a prolonged lapse could have on individual paychecks.

This past Saturday, December 22, was the last day of the two-week pay period (Pay Period 25), and you can expect to receive your next regular paycheck on December 31, 2018. Next week the Office of Human Resources will be sending out additional information about timesheets for Pay Period 26.

If the lapse continues beyond Pay Period 26, which ends on January 5, 2019, I urge you to contact your banks and other financial institutions, as many of them have already posted information about making accommodations for federal employees impacted by the lapse.

Individual payroll payments after normal funding resumes is legislated by Congress.  A bill to that effect has already been unanimously approved by the Senate and has moved on to the House for consideration.  Congress has historically provided back pay for furloughed employees.

At this time, all of you are my main concern.  I want to be sure not only that our support for Volunteers does not lag, but also that our support for staff remains strong.

Other Matters Related to Lapse in Funding

Duty Officers

All agency duty officer functions continue to operate as normal.

Overseas Social Media

Under the lapse plan, the agency will continue to perform “excepted activities,” which are defined as activities reasonably related to health, safety or security of human life or the protection of property.  Social media at posts may continue to be used for these limited activities.  However, social media for purposes unrelated to these excepted activities is not permitted.  Stories about Volunteer accomplishments, visit by local dignitaries, RPCV updates, and similar communications are not be authorized under the lapse plan.

Overseas Financial Operations

The Office of the Chief Financial Officer has sent a message to all posts with specific guidance regarding day-to-day financial operations during the lapse.  The message can be found on the intranet Government Status Resource Center under the title “CFO-Memo-to-Posts-on-Appropriations-Lapse-Guidance.docx.”  If you have any questions related to this guidance, reach out to Deputy CFO Andrew Pierce directly or [email protected]

Small Grants Operations

The Office of Gifts and Grants Management will be sending specific supplemental guidance later today pertaining to small grants and related operations during the lapse.

Payroll and Benefits

All questions concerning payroll and benefits should be sent to [email protected].

Post Logistics Support

Due to the lapse in Government funding Post Logistics Support (PLS) will not process any financial obligations unless they are deemed an emergency. Request for emergencies should be submitted to the PLS inbox: [email protected].  Orders that were processed and received prior to the lapse in appropriations and requested to be shipped DOS pouch will continue to be dispatched.  Air freight shipments are on hold.

Office of the Inspector General

The OIG and the OIG Hotline are available during the lapse.  Any concerns regarding waste, mismanagement, fraud or unlawful activity involving Peace Corps programs or operations should be reported to the OIG.  Reports or complaints can also be made anonymously.