Federal agencies will have until mid-2022 to make use of special Schedule A hiring authorities for pandemic response, under an extension issued by the Office of Personnel Management on Dec. 10.

The hiring authority, initially approved March 20, 2020, enables agencies to directly hire to a position at any grade level for one year — with an optional one-year extension — without going through the normal competitive process, so long as that position is essential for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The authority was extended March 29 of this year to last to the end of 2021, but OPM’s second extension means agencies have until June 30, 2022, to make use of it.

“OPM understands that during this time, agencies need more tools to conduct strategic, targeted hiring for specific, short-term roles to meet mission and/or hiring needs,” OPM Director Kiran Ahuja wrote in a memo to agency heads. “No new appointments may be made under this authority after June 30, 2022, or upon termination of this public health emergency, whichever comes first.”

According to an October report from the Government Accountability Office, approximately 2,000 new federal employees were brought into government under the first year of the Schedule A authority, and OPM authorizations proved a much more popular option for hiring than those granted by Congress.

Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.

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