WASHINGTON – Federal workers would be able to donate leave time to colleagues suffering from disasters in other parts of the country under a proposed Clinton administration plan.
Disasters such as last year’s flooding in the Midwest and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing inspired the plan, said Doug Walker, a spokesman for the Office of Personnel Management.
Walker said the new leave program would offer employees a “chance to deal with their personal emergencies,” such as relocating their families or recovering personal property.
The Emergency Transfer Leave Program would allow workers to donate time to a “leave bank” overseen by OPM. From there, the leave would be apportioned to federal agencies that have offices in a disaster area.
Workers harmed by the disasters could use the donated leave without exhausting their own vacation time or going without a paycheck.
Disaster leave banks have been assembled before for individual incidents, but the new authority would speed the process significantly, Walker said.
Worker groups applauded the proposal Tuesday.
“We think it’s a great idea,” said Robert Tobias, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 workers.
Tobias said during the Oklahoma City bombing there were workers who needed time off to be with friends and family members. “Without the leave bank (created specially for that crisis) they would not have been able to do that,” he said.
Susan Holliday, the Washington representative for the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund, which provides emergency aid to workers, said the plan “would help a lot of people who can’t survive without their full paycheck.”
Steve Bauer, the fund’s executive director, said the leave transfer “is something the government as an employer can do without cost.”
The Office of Personnel Management expects to put the new rules in place early next year after collecting public comment.