Multiple questions have submitted regarding the recently passed stimulus bill known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). Under section Title IV Section 4001 of the bill, funding for Emergency Federal Employee Leave (EFEL) was appropriated. The APWU is monitoring all developments regarding EFEL and will continue to share information as it is received.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is responsible for administering the fund and issuing the guidelines on this new leave. How this leave will be implemented government wide will not be known until OPM issues the regulations and guidelines.
However, this is what is known:
All Postal Employees, career or non-career, qualify for EFEL.
$570,000.000 has been allotted for payment of EFEL government wide.
Employees can utilize up to 600 hours of total EFEL.
The law allows these 600 hours to currently be used through September 30, 2022 or until the fund is depleted—whichever comes first.
There are 8 qualifying reasons to utilize this leave if unable to work due to a COVID-19 related reason:
Is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
is caring for an individual who is subject to such an order as in (1) or has been so advised as in (2).
is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.
is caring for the employee’s son or daughter if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, requires or makes optional a virtual learning instruction model, requires or makes optional a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning instruction models, or if the child-care provider of the son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions.
is experiencing any other substantially similar condition.
is caring for a family member with a mental or physical disability or who is 55 years of age or older and incapable of self-care, without regard to whether another individual other than the employee is available to care for such family member, if the place of care for such family member is closed or the direct care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19.
is obtaining immunization (vaccination) related to COVID-19 or is recovering from any injury, disability, illness, or condition related to such immunization.
Pay is at the employee’s normal rate of hourly pay, up to a maximum of $2,800 per pay period.
NTFT, PTF, PTR, and PSEs weekly hours paid will be based upon the average numbers the employee worked the 26-pay periods prior to the leave being taken up to a maximum of 40 hours a week.
Employees will not earn credit towards retirement, retirement contributions, contribute to TSP, or receive TSP matching funds on hours paid under the EFEL.
The Postal Service has sent out a communication to management on EFEL and the current method to request the leave and how it is to be coded in TACS.
According to Management’s initial communication employees should submit a PS Form 3971 and indicate they are requesting EFEL on the form. Employees must identify which of the 8 qualifying conditions they qualify under for the leave. Postal management is to code the leave under TACS code 086-21. The Postal Service informed the APWU that this code was made available in TACS on March 17, 2021, at 8:00 CDT.
The Postal Service is taking the position that qualifying reasons number 1 does not apply to postal employees as they are not subject to Federal, State, or local quarantine/isolation orders related to COVID-19. Also, there has not been “any other substantially similar condition” identified at this time that would qualify under number 6.
In an update provided to President Mark Dimondstein the afternoon of March 18, 2021, the Postal Service informed him that they are awaiting further clarification from OPM on the implementation, documentation, and other items related to the usage of EFEL. OPM has instructed all government agencies including the Postal Service not to issue their own official permanent policies until the OPM issued guidance is released. It is anticipated that the OPM guidance will be released sometime during the week of March 22, 2021. If the Postal Service issues any additional interim guidance prior to the OPM guidance being released, the APWU will share the interim guidance after an initial review.