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Federal HR Office Suspends Awards for Top Executives in Pandemic

July 14, 2020, 9:15 PM

A program that provides career senior executives in the federal government with monetary awards for exemplary service is being suspended this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, an adviser in the government’s central HR office said in an email to agency heads.

“In view of the Federal Government’s ongoing mission critical efforts to reopen the U.S. economy and government offices, and recognizing the financial strain facing many Americans during this time, OPM will recommend to the White House” that the Presidential Rank Awards program be suspended in 2020, John York, a senior adviser for policy at the Office of Personnel Management, said Monday in the email, which was obtained by Bloomberg Law.

Distinguished rank award winners under the Presidential Rank Awards program receive 35% of their rate of basic pay, while meritorious rank award recipients receive 20% of their rate of basic pay. There are about 7,000 career senior executives in the federal government. They earn between $160,100 and $219,200 in basic pay, according to the OPM’s website.

The program is being suspended this year to save the government time and money during a crisis, York said in the email. “OPM is asking agencies to avoid at present both the labor of the application process and the expenditure of costs for background investigations,” he wrote.

The OPM nonetheless is asking agencies to provide lists of PRA candidates no later than July 31 for consideration next year, York said.

“Persons eligible for award in FY2020 will maintain their eligibility for the next award cycle,” he wrote.

This isn’t the time to suspend the program, the leader of a group that represents career senior executives said Tuesday.

“Leaders in the federal service have worked in atypical conditions for nearly five months to deliver necessary stimulus to protect the American economy, provide insight on health-care advancements and the virus’s spread, and provide various essential services to the American people when they have needed it most. Now more than ever, we should be recognizing the individuals who have made these heroic efforts possible,” said Bob Corsi, interim president of the Senior Executives Association.

An OPM spokesperson said the suspension of the program doesn’t mean that the administration is ignoring the efforts of federal employees.

“Federal employees are today serving fellow citizens in need, many of whom have suffered financially or faced unemployment. OPM joins the Administration in continuing to salute the extraordinary efforts being made during these unprecedented times,” the spokesperson said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Louis C. LaBrecque in Washington at llabrecque@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Karl Hardy at khardy@bloomberglaw.com; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com

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