D.C.-Area Leaders Call for Continued Telework for Federal Workers During COVID-19 Crisis

    The top political leaders from the National Capital Region jointly penned a letter to the Trump administration Thursday, imploring that federal employees continue to be urged to telework during the balance of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Gov. Lawrence J Hogan Jr. (R), Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and Virginia Gov. Ralph S. Northam (D) asked Michael Rigas, acting director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, to keep remote work policies in place for the 360,000 federal workers living in their jurisdictions. 

    “Failure to do so could lead to a rise in cases and delay our ability to re-open the region,” the leaders wrote.

    This plea comes as protesters have stormed state capitals across the country demanding that governors ease social distancing restrictions, citing major hits to the states’ economies.

    Data released Thursday morning from the Maryland Department of Labor reports that 47,545 Maryland residents applied for unemployment insurance last week, joining the hundreds of thousands that have applied to receive the benefit since the state of emergency began in March.

    Republican lawmakers across the state have made similar requests of Hogan, expressing concern for small businesses that may face permanent shut-downs and suggesting that the governor reopen the state economy on a regional basis.

    President Trump has rallied on social media for states to reopen their economies amid the public health crisis. The president and governors across the country have butted heads about what appropriate reentry policy looks like.

    Hogan said on CNN’s “The Situation Room” earlier this week that the president’s cries conflict with recommendations given by members of his own COVID-19 response team, who suggest that coronavirus cases must be on the decline for 14 days before any state should consider easing their restrictions.

    “I think it was unfortunate to send out conflicting messages,” the governor told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Monday evening. “The president was kind of sending out messages encouraging people to protest against his own plan.”

    The National Governors Association, which Hogan chairs, released recommendations for reopening states Wednesday. 

    Hogan is expected to release a reentry plan for Maryland Friday.

    In the letter sent Thursday, Hogan, Bowser and Northam pointed to the administration’s “Opening up America Again” guidelines issued last week, which directs business owners to “encourage telework, whenever possible and feasible with business operations” in the first few phases of reentry. 

    “As one of the largest employers of our region and across the nation, the federal government should similarly follow that guidance,” they wrote.

    The executive leaders said that determining how to maintain essential government operations while looking after the well-being of employees is “a hard balancing act.”

    “Each of us have made tough decisions about which employees in our governments are performing essential roles and must still report to work locations, and which staff can telework,” they explained.

    “But we know that the Trump Administration can similarly make these appropriate judgements, and we hope the federal telework posture is reflective of our own local operating statuses.”

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    Hannah Gaskill
    Hannah Gaskill received her master’s of journalism degree in December 2019 from the University of Maryland. She previously worked on the print layout design team at The Diamondback, reported on criminal justice in Maryland for Capital News Service and served as a production assistant for The Confluence — the daily news magazine on 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR member station. Gaskill has had bylines in The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune, among other publications.Before pursuing journalism, she received her bachelor’s of fine art degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 2016. She grew up in Ocean City.