Very expensive IRS furlough invites

Friday - 5/3/2013, 2:00am EDT

The Internal Revenue Service sent hundreds, possibly thousands, of costly, last-minute overnight letters via UPS last week notifying employees of a series of five-day furloughs starting May 24.

The IRS said it doesn't know how many workers got the letters or the price tag for the mailings. It said that the "vast majority" of its 89,000 workers were notified by email.

Although the IRS didn't have figures on the cost of the letters, an employee involved in the process said under the agency contract with UPS the letters probably cost only $3.45 each. Other employees who received the overnight-letter notice estimated the cost ranged from $10 to $13 each and that workers on several campuses in different parts of the country got them. (UPS said overnight delivery for a single letter from Washington, D.C., to Cincinnati, Ohio, would be $36.50 at the non-group rate.)

The furloughs are the result of the White House-Congress sequestration program, which required most agencies to make across-the-board cuts. Many responded by saying they would be forced to furlough employees and curtail vital services such as air traffic control, customs and border patrol, weather forecasting and other key, high-profile operations.

An IRS spokesperson said the agency was required by law "to ensure all employees received a proposal letter about the impending furloughs 30 days in advance of the first furlough day." For IRS that meant the letters had to go out by last week, with the first furlough day scheduled for May 24. IRS employees will take their other unpaid days off on June 14, July 5, July 22 and Aug. 30. Most employees, except for those in essential maintenance and safety jobs, will be furloughed.

While most people were notified via email (if they have IRS accounts), the IRS said "we tried to minimize costs as much as possible by utilizing various methods of delivery including email to those employees with an IRS email account, providing a hardcopy of the notice to employees working on the day of issuance but without an IRS email account, and, overnight mail delivery to employees in non-work status or where there was a reasonable expectation that they would not return to work on April 23. We don't have a specific number or estimate at this point ... on the number of mailings, but the vast majority of employees received notification by email or paper copies while they were in-duty status."

One IRS employee told Federal News Radio producer Beth Reardon that lots of people on her campus got the letters. She said her boss was "flipping out angry" because of the cost. Sequestration is supposed to save money, right?

Furloughs have been a financial, logistical and PR problem from the start. Congress quickly ordered FAA to stop furloughs of air traffic controllers after major travel delays over the past couple of weeks. Agriculture was told not to furlough meat and poultry inspectors. Defense has downsized its furlough days from 22 to 14 and is considering even fewer days between now and Sept. 30, the end of this fiscal year.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

New Zealand's Department of Internal Affairs has released an official list of banned baby names, including

  • 4real
  • Mafia No Fear
  • . (a single period)
  • * (an asterisk)
All of the above names were initially selected by parents but rejected by the country's Department of Internal affairs for being offensive.

(Source: Salon)


MORE FROM FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

All TSP funds continue positive trend in April
All Thrift Savings Plan funds continued to perform well in April. While only two funds reported higher return rates for the month compared to March, all funds posted positive returns.

Bill would ax FEHBP in favor of Affordable Care Act health plan
Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) introduced legislation that would require feds to use insurance under the Affordable Care Act instead of the current Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

LEED green building standard clears first hurdle for governmentwide use
The Green Building Advisory Committee is recommending GSA establish LEED certification as the governmentwide standard for all federal buildings.