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Frequently Asked Questions about Employee Resources


Last Updated: September 13, 2021

Many questions are currently being researched. This document will be updated as new answers and guidance become available.

Emergency Assistance

Q: If I have been impacted by an emergency situation, what local resources are available for me?

A: The following organization and contacts have been identified:

For California: Bea Riddle, Deployed DR-4558-CA Wildfires, FEMA Mass Care Task Force Lead | Response and Recovery, Mobile: 225-910-5156, Bea.Riddle@fema.dhs.gov

FEMA Individual Assistance Liaison: Barbara Sadhana, Barbara.Sadhana@fema.dhs.gov

For Oregon: Franchesca Q. Gilbert, Voluntary Agency Liaison, FEMA Region X Recovery Division, Individual Assistance Branch, Mobile: (425) 408-3422, franchesca.gilbert@fema.dhs.gov

FEMA Individual Assistance Liaison: Lynda Aldrich, Lynda.Aldrich@fema.ds.gov

The following partner volunteer organizations have identified themselves as a resource for firefighters and families in need of assistance in Oregon:

For Washington: Washington Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster (WA VOAD), Jim Truitt, Greater Northwest Episcopal Area, Disaster Response Coordinator, drc@greaternw.org.

Q: What disaster assistance does FEMA offer to employees?

A: When the President of the United States declares an emergency or major disaster, a declaration is established outlining, in part, the types of assistance and designated areas. There are many types of assistance available for employees, including:

  • Disaster Unemployment Assistance
  • Individuals and Households Program Assistance
  • Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program
  • Voluntary Agency Coordination
  • Mass Care and Emergency Assistance
  • Disaster Case Management
  • Disaster Legal Services
  • Additional Resources

The FEMA website provides additional information on Programs to Support Disaster Survivors.

Individuals and Households Program Assistance provides financial assistance and direct services to eligible individuals and households who have uninsured or underinsured necessary expenses and serious needs. Individuals and Household Program Assistance is not a substitute for insurance and cannot compensate for all losses caused by a disaster; it is intended to meet basic needs and supplement disaster recovery efforts. There are two categories of Individuals and Household Program Assistance, housing and other needs.

  • Housing
    • Lodging Expense Reimbursement
    • Rental Assistance
    • Repair Assistance
    • Replacement Assistance
    • Multi-Family Lease and Repair
    • Transportable Temporary Housing Units
    • Direct Lease
    • Permanent Housing Construction
  • Other Needs
    • Personal Property
    • Moving and Storage
    • Transportation Assistance (i.e. repair and vehicle towing expenses)
    • Funeral
    • Medical
    • Dental
    • Child Care
    • Miscellaneous items such as chainsaws or dehumidifiers

For additional details of the types of assistance please see the Individual Assistance Program and Policy Guide, dated January 2019. FEMA also has

To apply for assistance, visit the FEMA disaster assistance website and click “Apply Online.”

Requesting Subsistence Reimbursement for Evacuees

Q: Can I be reimbursed for subsistence payments?

A: USDA Forest Service employees who were evacuated are eligible for reimbursement for the specific period when evacuation orders are/were in place. Employees who live within a declared disaster area need to register with FEMA, who can provide additional assistance. You can register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at DisasterAssistance.gov.

The following costs are reimbursable to evacuated employees:

  • Transportation: Travel expenses for the employee and dependents will be determined, in accordance with the Federal Travel Regulation, from the evacuated area to the agency designated safe haven and for their return to the previously evacuated area, as authorized.
  • Lodging-plus: For the period of evacuation, employees are eligible for actual amount of lodging (if paid by employees) plus a set allowance for meals and expenses (per diem) for employee and dependents.
  • Dependents: As defined under the Office of Personnel Management regulations, a dependent is a relative of the employee residing with the employee and dependent on the employee for support.

We realize you may not have access to office equipment so cell phone photos of receipts can be emailed along with the additional information we need to process your reimbursement. The Budget and Finance (B&F) staff will prepare your reimbursement forms for you to help facilitate this process.

Documentation should be emailed to the ETS2 inbox: SM.FS.ets2@usda.gov. Include the additional information in the email:

  • Name of employee
  • Names and ages of dependents
  • Contact Phone Number
  • Evacuation start date
  • Evacuation end date

The Budget and Finance Travel Help Desk is available for assistance: Albuquerque Service Center (ASC) Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Travel Help Desk 1-877-372-7248, Option #3. Click here for additional information on filing a subsistence claim.

For travel information, Forest Service Budget and Finance SharePoint site.

For travel booking, ConcurGov ETS2

Q: Are subsistence benefits for employees and families available after evacuation orders are lifted?

A: Subsistence benefits for evacuees are tied to evacuation orders and evacuee subsistence benefits are unavailable beyond that date.

Q: Are travel benefits (TDY) available to employees sent away from their duty locations (more than 50 miles away) to accomplish mission work?

A: Yes. However, employees need to be careful to associate the need to travel with the work to be accomplished. Traveling 51 miles away to continue full-time telework for the home unit would not be acceptable unless it is because there are no local options due to loss of infrastructure, telecoms, etc. throughout the area. Federal government agencies should seek opportunities to put evacuated employees in government quarters at other duty stations, rather than in commercial rentals, wherever possible. Where commercial/private rentals are the best option, Procurement and Property Services (PPS) personnel should be involved to procure suitable accommodations using best management practices.

Q: If an employee tenant is required to evacuate their quarters unit, can the Unit procure alternate lodging for the employee tenant during the evacuation period?

A: When it is necessary for an employee tenant to evacuate, the Unit should first make every attempt to temporarily relocate the employee tenant to a vacant quarters unit for the required evacuation period. To determine quarters availability, the Unit should contact the local Housing Manager (Procurement & Property Staff).

If the employee tenant cannot be temporarily relocated to a vacant quarters unit for the required evacuation period, the Unit should contact their Procurement staff for procurement assistance.

If the employee tenant is temporarily relocated (either to an Forest Service-owned or an Forest Service-procured quarters unit), the employee tenant must continue paying rent for the quarters unit they evacuated during the evacuation period.

Q: If an employee tenant is required to evacuate their quarters unit, and later resumes occupancy, is the employee tenant responsible for rent payment during the evacuation period?

A: Yes. The Housing Manager at the Unit must:

  • Review the employee tenant’s entire rent payment history to determine their rent balance.
  • Initiate action to collect any unpaid rent.
Q: If an employee tenant is required to evacuate their quarters unit, but is unable to return to their quarters unit because it’s no longer habitable, what steps must the employee tenant and Unit take to address rent payment?

A: The employee tenant is responsible for rent payment (for the quarters unit they evacuated) through the evacuation period (as defined by the evacuation order).

If the employee tenant occupies housing after the evacuation period (Forest Service-owned or Forest Service-procured), the employee tenant must pay the Internet Quarters Management Information System (iQMIS) calculated-rent for the quarters unit they are reassigned to.

Q. If an employee tenant is unable to return to their quarters unit because it’s no longer habitable, is the Unit required to provide housing for the employee?

A: The Unit is only required to provide housing for the employee if the employee is required to live in housing as a condition of employment. Otherwise, the Unit should make every attempt to reassign the employee tenant to a vacant quarters unit nearby. If there are no vacant quarters units nearby, the employee may find housing in the private rental market.

Emotional and Mental Health Resources

Q: What mental and emotional health support resources are available for employees and their dependents?

A: There are multiple resources available for employees and their families.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a confidential, agency-provided program that helps employees work through various life challenges that may adversely affect job performance, health, and personal well-being to optimize an organization's success. Through EAP, employees have ready one-on-one access to counselors over the course of 6 to 8 private sessions paid for by the Forest Service.

  • Region 1, 6, and Pacific Northwest: ESPYR/EAP Consultants at (800) 869-0276
  • Region 4: ComPsych at (888) 290-4327
  • All Other Regions and Units: Federal Occupational Health at (800) 222-0364
  • Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers (JCCCCs) and Washington Office (WO) detached/virtual employees are to use the services where they are geographically aligned.
  • Employee Assistance Program SharePoint site: https://usdagcc.sharepoint.com/sites/fs-osoh/Pages/EAP.aspx (link requires the Forest Service (FS) network or a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection).

Many other resources and details can be found on the story map that explains how to accessing mental health support in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Service.

Q: What resources are available outside of the Forest Service?

A: There are resources available outside of the agency. Hotlines that may be particularly helpful include:

Weather and Safety Leave & Emergency Leave Transfer Program

Q: Can employees use weather and safety leave when they are impacted by an emergency situation?

A: If an employee is impacted by an emergency situation either due to personal reasons (loss of home, evacuation, etc) or it prevents them from safely reporting to work, the Regional Forester, Deputy Regional Forester, or WO Staff Director have the authority to grant “Weather and Safety Leave.” In Paycheck 8 the time is coded as DC-34/TC-66. The amount the Regional Forester, Deputy Regional Forester, Station Director, or WO Staff Director may grant is up to their discretion based on the emergency situation. In most cases, weather and safety leave should replace the use of administrative leave.

Q: Is the Emergency Leave Transfer Program (ELTP) available for employees impacted by fires or hurricanes?

A: The Office of Personnel Management has established the ELTP to assist employees affected by the wildfires in California and Hurricane Laura. The ELTP allows employees to apply for the ELTP or to donate annual leave to Forest Service employees or employees in other agencies who are adversely affected by the wildfires in California or Oregon or by Hurricane Laura.

How to Donate Leave
Employees who would like to donate unused annual leave:
 
  • Complete OPM Form 1638 and contact the HRM Contact Center to submit the form.
  • May donate between 1–104 hours of annual leave. (An employee may donate to the ELTP even if they reached the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program donation limitations.)
  • May not donate to a specific ELTP recipient. Donations are placed into a fund and dispersed to recipients.
  • May not donate sick leave, comp hours, or credit hours.


How to Become an ELTP Recipient
An employee who is adversely affected or has a family member that is adversely affected by the wildfires in California or Oregon or by Hurricane Laura, may apply to become an ELTP recipient. An employee or their family member is considered to be adversely affected if the emergency has caused them severe hardship to such a degree that their absence from work is required.

  • To apply: Complete OPM Form 1637 and contact the HRM Contact Center to submit the forms.
  • Employees will be notified within 10 days if the application has been approved or denied by HRM.

For more information, please visit OPM’s website about the Emergency Leave Transfer Program

Submitting Timesheets

Q: How can I submit my Timesheet if I don’t have access to my computer?

A: If you or your designated time keeper, where applicable, need assistance submitting timesheets, here are a few options for assistance:

  1. Personal Device: If Employees do not have access to their government computer, they can still access paycheck8 through ConnectHR via their personal device (computer, phone, etc) using their FS active directory login/password. If they need assistance with their login/password, they should call HR Help at 1-877-372-7248, option 2.
  2. Delegated Access: Paycheck8 provides employees the ability to designate someone (usually their supervisor) to submit timesheets on their behalf. If the employee has this set up, they can work with the individual they delegated to submit the timesheet.
  3. Contact an HRM Pay Supervisor or Leads: If the first two methods are not an option, the supervisor or their designee may reach out to one of the HRM Pay supervisor or leads by email or Skype and get assistance (see contact list - link requires FS network or a VPN connection).
    1. If the employee worked overtime, the supervisor or designee will need to provide the HRM Pay contact all the time/hours worked.
    2. If the supervisor doesn’t have the hours worked (or for large groups of employees), our HRM Pay contacts will provide the supervisor further instructions.

Fire Hire

Q: Fire hire for the 2021 summer season is starting in October. Can this be delayed?

A: The hiring calendar for fire hire events was set in coordination with senior leaders within the regions and with Fire and Aviation management staffs. A Regional Forester can decide to revise a fire hire schedule should they determine it is necessary. A significant amount of fire vacancies are currently open as Open Continuous Registers (OCRs) and many of these positions are open for one year. If the currently announced vacancies do not yield a sufficient candidate pool, or, if there is a decision made at a Regional Forester level to pause hiring, the Fire Team will work with those Forests and Regions to revise the hiring plan as necessary.

Training Deadlines

Q: Can AgLearn Training deadlines be extended?

A: The following AgLearn training deadlines have been extended. Other training deadlines are being evaluated and this list of extensions will be updated accordingly.

  • Information Security Awareness (ISA) Training: Employees have a waiver for the ISA training through 11/30/2020. Employees are encouraged to complete the ISA training as soon as possible; but employees will not be disconnected from the network if their initial due date is not met. Starting 12/1, standard security training processes and due dates will resume.
  • Annual Fleet Card Training: Extended to 12/31/2020.
  • New USDA Performance and Awards Policies Training: Extended to 12/31/2020. Employees will not lose access to any system if the training is not completed. Employees should notify their supervisor if they will be unable to complete the training.
  • Guide to Completing your Individual Development Plan (IDP): Extended to 12/31/2020.

Employee Personal Property Claims

Q: Can employees living in government-owned housing (i.e. quarters) be reimbursed for lost or damaged personal property?

A: Yes. The Military Personnel and Civilian Employees' Claims Act of 1964 (MPCEA), 31 USC. 3721, authorizes agencies to reimburse employees for loss of or damage to personal property when that loss or damage is incident to their service. However, if an employee has rental or car insurance, claims against their insurance company for items insured is required prior to filing an employee claim with the Forest Service. A point of note: the Department of the Interior, State, or employees thru a cooperator agreement (such as the Agriculture Conservation Experienced Services (ACES) enrollees) should submit employee claims to their employer. Job Corps students on a Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center would file their claims for loss of personal property with the Department of Labor (DOL). Employees on a Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center should submit their claim to the Forest Service.

Q: What are some available options to assist employees with filing a personal property claim?

A: Employees can contact the Help Desk (1-877-372-7248, option 1) or visit the Claims SharePoint site https://usdagcc.sharepoint.com/sites/fs-cfo-bfp/Claims/SitePages/Home.aspx (link requires FS network or a VPN connection). The SharePoint site includes tips and tools and a link to Unit Claims Liaisons representing all the Regions.

Q: What are the steps in filing a claim?

A: See following steps:

  1. Claims must be presented in writing no later than two years from the date of the damage or loss.
  2. Claims should be filed using the AD-382.pdf (Employee Claim for Loss or Damage to Personal Property) (link requires FS network or a VPN connection).
  3. The electronic form must be signed using your LincPass (please be sure you are using Adobe Reader to view the form). If an employee does not have access to their work computer, they can print out completed form, sign it and email, fax or mail copy. Emailed or faxed forms should also be followed up by mailing a hard copy form with ink signature.
    1. Fax: 866-341-1541
    2. Email: sm.fs.ascclaims@usda.gov
    3. Address: ASC B&F Claims Branch, 101B Sun Ave NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109
  4. All sections of the form should be completed with as much detail as possible.
  5. Sign and date in "Signature of Claimant" block.
  6. Attach "Supervisor Statement" (link requires FS network or a VPN connection). This is an explanation of what happened, whether the loss or damage occurred incident to employee's service, and that the possession of the property was reasonable, useful, or proper under the circumstances.
  7. Attach Cost Supporting Documentation, i.e. internet price listings, quotes, repair estimates, etc. and other documentation as needed. See List of Required Documents (link requires FS network or a VPN connection),
  8. Send the MPCEA claim package (including supporting documentation in PDF to sm.fs.ascclaims@usda.gov. The subject line should read: Region/Unit, Last Name, First Name, and $0.00 (total dollar amount claimed).
  9. You will receive a status email directly from the Claims Examiner assigned to your case.

Donating to Help Impacted Employees

Q. Can employees raise funds to assist Co-Workers impacted by the fires and hurricanes?

A: Yes, and here are a few rules to follow:

  • Donations must be done freely by co-workers without pressure or coercion.
  • The donor determines the amount of the contribution.
  • The collected donations may be given directly to the affected employee or used to purchase items or gift cards.
  • Line Officers/Station Directors can approve the use of e-mails to notify employees about a bank account that has been set up for an employee who has suffered a personal tragedy or event.
  • E-mail can be used to share information about crowdsource funding efforts (such as GoFundMe) if the Line Officer/Station Director approves, and the e-mail are not sent by supervisors or management, the email is explicit donations are voluntary, time limited, and not on official distribution lists, and are not sent by an employee seeking funds.
  • Collections of gifts/items (food, clothing, etc.) are permitted.
  • For efforts to collect funds for a group of employees please check with Ethics for the details to collect resources correctly.

Prior to donating, click here to review the guidance and rules from the USDA Office of Ethics related to different types of donation/fundraising efforts and what is allowed in the workplace.

Fundraisers Established by Other Organizations

Q: Have any external organizations established fundraising efforts?

A: The Pacific Northwest Forest Service Association has the Elmer Moyer Emergency Fund. Donations to this fund financially support Forest Service employees, retirees, or others that have suffered from catastrophic events such as fire, flood, theft, etc.

The National Forest Foundation has established the following fundraisers for restoration activities:

Other Resources

Q:What USDA resources are available for finding information from other agencies for disaster, financial, or home assistance?

A: USDA Rural Development has a variety of financial assistance programs for rural applications. Some Rural Development programs that might be helpful to impacted employees or communities include:

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also provides a variety of disaster resources. These resources include mortgage assistance, emergency preparedness information, and fair housing information. More details about these programs can be found on the HUD Disaster Resources site.

The Small Business Administration provides multiple types of disaster loans. Information about loans can be found on the Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance website.

Q: Can an agency employee use their government purchase card to cover the cost of the lodging for another employee?

A: The Government Purchase Card (GPC) is prohibited from making payments for Quarters because the payments are withheld from the employee paycheck. Given that Quarters are unavailable and the Forest Service must provide housing, other avenues will need to be pursued. The GPC policy allows for use of the purchase card for administrative barriers, which appear to be present. While we can use the GPC until the Forest Service can arrange for reimbursement to the employee we need to ensure the charges on the GPC are appropriately assessed to the Quarters program. Use of the GPC should only be used until something can be set up for an employee. The cardholder making purchase should retain appropriate documentation (including messages from ASC) related to this situation as shown below. We highly recommend working with a warranted cardholder since the limit could easily exceed the micro-purchase thresholds. Hopefully a permanent solution can be established soon to provide the best solution for these employees.

A screenshot of a form asking if, "May I use the purchase card for travel-related items." and then a 'Yes' and 'No' option and an explanation.

 

HR Assistance

Human Resources Management (HRM) Contact Center at (877) 372-7248, and press 2 to speak directly with one of our Contact Center agents. The HRM Contact Center is available 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Mountain Time), Monday through Friday, and closed on all Federal holidays.

 

IT Help Desk

For technical help, the Customer Help Desk can be reached at (866) 945-1354 / TTY: (800) 877-8339

 

PayCheck8

If Employees do not have access to their government computer, they can still access PayCheck8 through ConnectHR via their personal device (computer, phone, etc) using their Forest Service active directory login/password. If they need assistance with their login/password, they should call HR Help at (877) 372-7248, option 2.

 

COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019)

COVID-19 information for employees (a Forest Service network access or a VPN connection is required)

 

Box, Email and Office applications

Accessing the resources below will require a web-enabled device (i.e., computer with an internet connection) with a built-in smart card reader or an attached USB smart card reader. A card reader is required.

Email and Office: You can safely connect to USDA Office 365 to access Outlook (email), Microsoft Teams and other Microsoft applications like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. When performing government work this way, you will not be allowed to download or save documents to your personal device, but instead will be creating and saving in the USDA Office 365 Cloud.

Box: You can also connect to Pinyon without being on the Forest Service network or a VPN connection.

 

https://www.fs.usda.gov/inside-fs/employee-support