The Biden COVID package may be, as the saying goes, “good enough for government work.” But for actual government workers –it’s great.
Buried about halfway through the 628-page, $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021” is a provision granting federal employees with kids up to $1,400 a week for staying home with their school-age children. The “Emergency Federal Employee Leave Fund” provision provides $570 million for government workers who remain home to care for children whose schools have not resumed full time, in-class instruction. This benefit is not available to the rest of the workforce.
The total spending per qualified government-employee household could reach $21,000, far outstripping the $400 a week in extended federal unemployment benefits included in the plan.
“American workers–who are paying taxes to support our federal workforce and are struggling to earn a living in spite of the government-imposed closures and while being denied services like in-person education from the public schools–shouldn’t be jealous of pampered so-called ‘public servants,'” says Carrie Lukas, President of the Independent Women’s Forum. “They should be outraged.”
Concerns over taxpayer outrage did not stop New Hampshire’s two House members from voting in favor of the COVID-19 package, including this federal-worker benefit. Both Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas declined repeated requests for comment about their vote for the program. Neither has mentioned the benefit in the public statements touting their support for the $1.9 trillion spending plan.
In the version of the bill that passed the House, full-time federal employees are eligible for up to 600 hours of paid leave, and can claim up to $35 an hour and $1,400 a week, as long as they are “unable to work” due to caring for their school-aged children.
But caring for children doesn’t mean kids who have special needs, or can’t access daycare.
As written in the legislation, federal employees qualify for the fund “if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, if the school of such son or daughter requires or makes optional a virtual learning instruction model or requires or makes optional a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning instruction models, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to Covid-19 precautions;”
And, critics warn, there is currently no age restriction written in the legislation, meaning parents with adult children who are taking college classes from home are also eligible to receive these benefits.
Using a 40 hour work week as an example, a federal employee is eligible for up to $21,000 if they collect the benefit the full 15 weeks.
“The $570 million fund for federal bureaucrats to receive paid leave is another example of wasteful spending in Pres. Biden’s $1.9 trillion legislation,” said Alex Hendrie, director of tax policy at Americans for Tax Reform. “And this isn’t the only disincentive to work in the bill – Democrats also have a proposal that will let almost 40 percent of American workers receive more money from staying on unemployment than from finding a job.”
Based on a search of their websites, not a single news media outlet in New Hampshire has reported on this federal setaside. An article from the progressive Center for American Politics headlined “New Hampshire Needs The American Rescue Plan makes no mention of it, either.
Hendrie doesn’t think that’s an accident. “This massive spending bill is not needed. Democrats are proposing this $1.9 trillion despite the fact that Congress has already passed $4 trillion in aid and that there $1 trillion in federal aid unspent. Any new aid should be narrowly targeted to help Americans get vaccinated, help the country reopen, and help students get back to school.”