It seems that many agencies are accepting president Trump’s idea of reducing the number of federal employees and the EPA Offering Buyouts is proof positive that Trump’s vision of a smaller government is becoming a reality. The Environmental Protection Agency has recently initiated steps to buy out certain personnel. The EPA has decided not to hire more workers unless it becomes necessary. It is believed that the agency may offer voluntary retirement as well. The impact of these changes on retirement benefits and federal retirement can just be guessed right now because no one knows the exact impact.
How the EPA Offering Buyouts Will Impact the Agency
The EPA has begun offering buyouts to reduce the number of federal employees in the Agency. The Agency has about 15,000 employees at the moment. This decision was probably taken because of an executive order by President Trump that was released last month and talked about streamlining agencies through the federal government.
How was the Message of Reducing Federal Employees at EPA Conveyed?
The message of reducing federal employees was conveyed via a letter sent by the Acting Deputy Director of EPA, Mike Flynn. This letter was sent to all the regional administrators. The content of this letter stated that the White House had asked federal government agencies to start taking immediate actions that are aimed at reducing the workforce.
The letter further stated that as per the said guidance, the EPA offering buyouts to start an early buyout or early out program. Flynn also mentioned that the goal was to complete the program by the end of the year.
Flynn also mentioned that though the governmentwide hiring freeze has been lifted, new recruitments at the EPA will not be encouraged. The resource situation of the agency is such that it has to opt to stay away from external hiring. This hiring freeze is not aimed at restricting recruitment for all the positions as there can be limited exceptions that are permitted on a case-by-case basis.
Setting of a Trend
Though the memo has minimal details about the agency’s plan to reduce the number of federal employees, it can be probably one of the several plans that will be submitted by various agencies.
It is also a fact that EPA has been a central target of the Trump administration as the President of the country, Donald Trump had earlier promised that he would reduce the agency to tidbits. The budget he has proposed would slash the funding of the agency by 30 percent and cut around 3200 federal employees. It will also obliterate funding for Superfund cleanups, climate change research and scrap over 50 programs. The efforts being made towards improving the energy efficiency, cleaning up the great lakes and funding infrastructure projects in the Native American communities are among the scrapped plans.
Understanding the Buyout
Those of you who don’t fully understand what the EPA Offering Buyouts will mean to federal employees must know that buyout is also known as a voluntary separation incentive payment. It is a cash payment that is made to a federal worker to tempt him or her to leave voluntarily. The maximum amount of money that can be offered per person is $25,000. This payment is taxable which means that the take-home value is reduced by a few thousand dollars at least.
Federal workers who are selecting this option must leave by a specified date, and they are not allowed to return to federal employment within five years unless they manage to repay the entire pretax buyout amount.
Is Early Retirement Offers on EPA Agenda?
In most cases, the buyouts are coupled with early retirement offers, but in the case of EPA, it is not clear whether they are on the agenda or not. For those of you who don’t know, Voluntary Early Retirement Authority lets federal employees retire before they reach the standard combinations of years of service and age.
The two most vital federal retirement systems are Federal Employees Retirement System and Civil Service Retirement System. The latter applies to people who were hired before 1984 which consists of less than 10 percent of the workforce. These people are now older and closer to retirement on an average.
Early retirement offers allow employees in either of the two systems to retire at any age with 25 years of service or age 50 with 20 years or service. It is potentially subject to a reduction in one’s retirement benefits.
Why are Layoffs Unpopular?
Laying off the federal workers or Reduction in Workforce is not preferred by federal agencies because it requires a tedious, expensive and disruptive process. RIFs have been out of trend as Agencies have not used them for decades and they try to avoid them. Agencies prefer other methods like cutting down the travel and other expenses as well as cutting down the feds via attrition.
Federal employees have been under the scanner since President Trump took over. The attempts to reduce the number of feds have been initiated at EPA by offering buyouts. The agency may also offer early retirement options which may badly impact retirement benefits and federal retirement.