The year 2020 will be etched in our memories for the sheer amount of volatility in all areas of our lives. The nation has experienced devastating wildfires and hurricanes throughout the year, all amidst the global coronavirus pandemic.
And Forest Service employees have suffered losses, including some while fighting fires. Some of us lost homes and all we owned; we lost our offices and work centers, and—worse by far—lost neighbors, friends, and family.
Our job now is to care—to care for our own, for the people we serve, and for the lands we manage. As a caring and responsive organization committed to core values of service and interdependence, the Forest Service is launching Operation Care and Recovery: a corporate approach to supporting our employees, the Regions, Stations, Job Corp Centers, and communities in desperate need of recovery from the 2020 fires.
Our intent is to create an efficient, centralized “one-stop shop” where our employees can go for assistance and find the care and recovery support they need. We will focus on five areas:
- Helping our employees recover
- Helping our administrative units recover
- Helping the communities we serve to recover
- Coping with short-term natural resource impacts
- Meeting needs for long-term recovery
FAQs for Employees Impacted by Emergency Situations
FAQs Last Updated: September 25, 2020
Many questions are currently being researched. This document will be updated as new answers and guidance become available.
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, 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: 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- If the employee worked overtime, the supervisor or designee will need to provide the HRM Pay contact all the time/hours worked.
- 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.
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.
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
- First resource is for anyone to contact 1-800-RED-CROSS for shelter, feeding, clothing, or any support service or immediate needs. Their message is always ‘don’t suffer in silence.’
- Response website for California: response.ca.gov
- Department of Social Services County resources: www.cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/community-care/caregiver-background-check/resources-for-counties
- CAL Fire: www.fire.ca.gov
- There is a Portal for each County with Contact information, location/hours for the Office of Emergency Management (OEM)
- In addition, there is a State Mass Care Shelter Task Force at 916-636-3706
For Oregon: Franchesca Q. Gilbert, Voluntary Agency Liaison, FEMA Region X Recovery Division, Individual Assistance Branch, Mobile: (425) 408-3422, email@example.com
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:
- Adventist Community Services, Laura Pascoe (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Central Oregon COAD, Brent Chapman (email@example.com)
- LDS Charities, Mike Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Lutheran Disaster Response, Charlene Larsen (email@example.com)
- Salvation Army, Rashad Bauman (Rashad.firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Dave Hillison (email@example.com), Kenton Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Tzu Chi USA, Peggy (Pei) (email@example.com)
For Washington: Washington Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster (WA VOAD), Jim Truitt, Greater Northwest Episcopal Area, Disaster Response Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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: No extension is necessary. 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.
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 U.S.C. 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. Department of Interior, State, or cooperator employees should submit employee claims to their employer. Job Corps students would file their claims for loss of personal property with Department of Labor.
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:
- Claims must be presented in writing no later than two years from the date of the damage or loss.
- 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).
- 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.
- Fax: 866-341-1541
- Email: email@example.com
- Address: ASC B&F Claims Branch, 101B Sun Ave NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109
- All sections of the form should be completed with as much detail as possible.
- Sign and date in "Signature of Claimant" block.
- 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.
- 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),
- Send the MPCEA claim package (including supporting documentation in PDF to firstname.lastname@example.org. The subject line should read: Region/Unit, Last Name, First Name, and $0.00 (total dollar amount claimed).
- You will receive a status email directly from the Claims Examiner assigned to your case.
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.
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:
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
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 (877) 372-7248, option 2.
COVID-19 information for employees (a FS 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), MS 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.