Official details schedule for USDA reopening
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Senior leadership at the Agriculture Department will return to the office on Feb. 28, Keith Gray, associate administrator of the Risk Management Agency, said here this week during the Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention.
Mid-level staff will be expected to return by March 28, and all staff will be “phased in” by May 27, Gray added.
But Gray stressed that the reopening would not be the same as before the coronavirus pandemic closed USDA in March 2020.
“We are not coming back to the office in the traditional sense,” Gray said.
“We are going to be hybrid, largely remote.”
How much time RMA employees spend in the office will also depend on local conditions, he added.
Gray noted that the office has been “100% telework,” but working that way “hasn’t slowed us down.” In some cases, remote work has “improved our response time,” he said.
“We are going to hold everyone accountable,” Gray added.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that the time USDA employees spend at their work stations or working remotely will depend on their duties and consultations with their supervisors, but that in general USDA will have a policy of “maximum telework,” allowing people to work remotely as much as eight days out of 10.
The Feb. 28 return immediately follows the two-day Agricultural Outlook Forum, which will be held virtually this year, Feb. 24-25.
USDA officials continue to urge people to sign up for the Outlook Forum.
The forum is free, but registration is required.
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