Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnel (R-Ky) decided to cancel most of the August recess to give Congress more time to consider legislation that doesn’t make the national headlines but improves congressional oversight.
The following pieces of legislation are worth watching this summer.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee leadership want agencies to provide annual “financial statements” with detailed information about improper payments and post it online.
The Payment Integrity Information Act also requires that agencies periodically review all programs and activities that may lead to improper payments being made and develop a plan for correcting those activities. This bill would also set up a working group of federal, state, and local agencies, which would try to find the source of improper payments.
The Office of Management and Budget and Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) would be responsible for issuing guidance to agencies to help them improve reporting compliance.
Some senators also want a clear status update on the recommendations agencies have received from their inspector generals and the Government Accountability Office. The Good Accounting Obligation in Government (GAO-IG) Act has been introduced and would require agencies to give Congress an annual report on the status of IG and GAO recommendations.
Agencies have more than 8,000 open recommendations from GAO and at least 15,000 unaddressed suggestions from IG’s.
College Grants and Repayment Options
There are many challenges of recruiting and retaining young talent in government. Only about 6% of the federal workforce is under age 30, with 1.2% of employees between ages 20-24.
Sen. Ben Cardin wants to make working in government a more attractive option for recent college graduates. The Strengthening American Communities Act would set up a National Public Service Education Grant. The grant would fund most of a student’s tuition at a public college or university, and the college would contribute part of the remaining cost. Those who accept the grant would commit themselves to at least 3 years in public service.
Cardin’s bill would also establish a Debt-Free Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which would cancel a certain percentage of a graduates’ federal student loan debt based on the individual’s tenure in public service. Candidates must meet specific requirements and be enrolled in a repayment program. The program won’t be retroactive.
“The current system of indebting individuals at the start of the careers has led to minority under-representation in our public-sector workforce,” Cardin said. “First-generation college students and students from low-income families cannot afford to take on student loan debt and enter into lower-paying public service careers. As a result, our nation is deprived of the talents and perspectives of those who want to serve their communities but simply cannot afford to do so, resulting in our workforce that is less representative of the people it serves.”
Federal employees who meet certain criteria can apply for the federal student loan repayment program. Agencies can make loan payments for an employee of up to $10,000 a year with a max of $60,000 per person. Employees must commit to staying at their agencies for at least 3 years.
Federal Property Management
Some senators want agencies to assess their own federal property needs more often than current practice. Four senators have introduced the Federal Personal Property Management Act. Currently, agencies declare the property as excess when moving offices or reducing space, which means organizations are known to keep the unnecessary and unneeded property. The new legislation would create a standard process for agencies to access and understand the true value of their property. Agencies will have to identify the age, condition, and extent to which the property is used during these assessments.