In late January and early February, as President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief package began to take shape, the hashtag #BidenLied began trending on Twitter.
Not that it couldn’t have trended any time in the past decade and been accurate, mind you — but in this context, it had to do with the stimulus checks Americans were going to end up receiving.
During his barnstorming tour of Georgia in support of then-Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, Biden promised voters $2,000 stimulus checks.
“By electing Jon and the reverend, you can make an immediate difference in your own lives, the lives of the people all across this country,” he declared at a Jan. 4 rally in Atlanta.
“Because their election will put an end to the block in Washington on that $2,000 stimulus check, that money that would go out the door immediately to help people who are in real trouble.
“Think about what it will mean for your lives. Putting food on the table. Paying rent. Paying … your mortgage. Paying down the credit card. Paying the phone bill, the gas bill, the electric bill.”
Now, Biden would quickly backtrack on this while pretending he hadn’t; Congress had already sent out $600 checks and he’d be sending out another $1,400. See — $2,000! Voila.
This united conservatives and disaffected progressives in criticizing Biden, although the hashtag was quickly taken over with Biden supporters hijacking the hashtag with pictures of their pets.
The issue still remained, though: Biden said he would give you $2,000 once and he now wants to give you $1,400 once.
However, Biden and Co. are willing to splurge when it comes to federal workers, at least if the Democrats’ newly introduced House version of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is any guide.
For today’s lesson in wastefulness, we’re going to turn to page 305 in the text, the “Emergency Federal Employee Leave Fund.”
As Adam Andrzejewski pointed out in a Tuesday piece at Forbes, “$570 million in the new fund is available through September 30. Federal employees caring for others due to Covid-19 are eligible for paid leave. Among those eligible are those who are ‘unable to work’ because they are caring for school-aged children not physically in school full time ‘due to Covid-19 precautions.'”
A federal worker can 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.”
The measure would set up an Emergency Federal Employee Leave Fund of $570 million for all civilian federal employees, including U.S. Postal Service workers, to access up to 600 hours in additional paid leave for a slew of pandemic-related reasons https://t.co/3AqYG5bdaA
— Yahoo News (@YahooNews) February 14, 2021
For the harried among us — scurrying between laptops, making sure children are paying attention as you attend to your own Zoom call — the fact your tax dollars are being used to pay federal employees not to work if their child’s school even has a hybrid model (in which they spend some time in school and some time distance learning) is infuriating.
Ah, but these are federal employees, and that’s just the start.
“Under the bill as currently drafted, full-time federal employees can take up to 600 hours in paid leave until September 30, up to $35 an hour and $1,400 a week. That’s 15 weeks for a 40-hour employee. Part-time and ‘seasonal’ employees are eligible, too, with equivalent hours established by their agency,” Andrzejewski reported.
“Federal employees currently have up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. (A law passed in 2019, allows most federal employees — what the sponsors report is 2.1 million federal workers — up to 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth, foster placement or adoption of a new child.)”
Employees could claim up to $21,000 under the plan. Not only that, combining paid and unpaid leave, a federal employee who qualifies could spend 27 weeks not doing the job he or she was hired to do.
The bill also includes no age limit for the children who are being kept home from school, it’s worth noting. Whether this is a bug or a feature remains to be seen — but if you take this to its logical, if somewhat absurd, end, parents of college-age children could theoretically take off if their progeny is studying online — and you could be paying for it.
Other reasons are somewhat less dubious. If you’re asked to quarantine or are taking care of a family member who needs to self-quarantine, you’re covered as well. Those receiving or recovering from COVID vaccines will also be eligible. That still doesn’t excuse the rest of the section, however, which is chock full of loopholes.
Any concerns over the expansiveness of the program and the slovenly language used to delineate what it can be used for are, by definition, hypothetical.
By tomorrow, the language could be tightened up or the Democrats could be shamed into realizing paying people not to work, after short-changing those of us in the private sector in the great $1.9 trillion giveaway, might backfire.
The latter situation seems doubtful, although hope springs eternal. That said, given the concerns over the vagueness of the language, it’s entirely likely this will change in form, if not in spirit.
The federal government takes care of its own, particularly when it comes to union workers. They can be paid to not work.
For the rest of us, busy juggling children, work and the ever-changing school landscape, enjoy your $1,400. Which is really $2,000 if you count the first $600.
You’re welcome, America.
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