Congress authorized certain federal agencies to directly hire new federal employees to respond to COVID-19 as part of the March 2020 CARES Act emergency pandemic response. That same month, the Office of Personnel Management authorized the use of Schedule A to temporarily hire for pandemic response positions and provided additional direct hire authorities to five agencies in September 2020.

Direct hire authorities allow agencies to bring on new employees for certain positions without needing to adhere to veterans’ preference and competitive ranking and rating procedures.

Of those three COVID authorities, the CARES Act authorization – which covered the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services and Commerce, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission – pulled in the fewest new feds, according to an Oct. 25 Government Accountability Office report.

The SEC and CFTC did not make any hires under that authority from March to December 2020, according to the report.

Meanwhile the COVID-19 direct hire authority authorized by OPM – which covered the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services and Agriculture, as well as the Smithsonian Institution and Small Business Administration – brought in over 5,000 new federal employees.

The Schedule A authority for temporary positions brought in approximately 2,000 feds from March to December 2020, and OPM opted to extend that authority through 2021 as well.

“OPM intends to conduct reviews in fiscal year 2022 that may provide insight into agencies’ use of hiring authorities in response to the pandemic. However, according to OPM officials, the agency has not yet developed plans to collect and share lessons learned on the use of COVID-19 related hiring authorities,” the report said.

“Collecting and sharing lessons learned would help OPM understand how the various hiring authorities could be used during future emergencies and identify opportunities to improve the hiring process.”

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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