The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will set aside $12 million to buyout employees as the agency works to”reshape” its workforce, according to a memo obtained by The Washington Post.
The EPA’s acting chief financial officer distributed a memo earlier this month outlining plans to buyout employees to reduce the agency’s workforce to comply with an executive order from President Donald Trump.
The memo is likely the start of Trump’s proposed EPA staffing cuts. Trump’s “skinny” budget called for a 25 percent reduction to EPA’s workforce and a 31 percent cut to the agency’s budget. The budget would reduce EPA’s 15,000-employee workforce by more than 3,000 positions.
EPA began offering buyouts in April after Trump issued an executive order to eliminate waste and redundancies in federal agencies.
In April, Mike Flynn, EPA’s acting deputy administrator, told regional administrators and other agency officials the White House wanted “immediate actions” taken to reduce the agency’s workforce. The EPA stopped hiring new employees in January, and employees are expected to accept buyouts in the coming months.
“Streamlining and reorganizing is good government and important to maximizing taxpayer dollars,” Liz Bowman, a spokeswoman for the EPA, said in a statement to The Washington Post. “This includes looking at developing opportunities for individuals to retire early. It’s a process that mirrors what the Obama Administration EPA did about four years ago, to ensure that payroll expenses do not overtake funds used for vital programs to protect the environment.”
EPA will offer cash buyouts of up to $25,000 to employees in exchange for them leaving. This allows federal employees to early retire before they would otherwise qualify for full benefits. Big staffing reductions could occur at the EPA over the next few months.
Paying EPA employees to leave their jobs isn’t anything new. Under President Barack Obama, the EPA paid more than $11 million in incentives to compel 436 employees to voluntarily leave their jobs in 2014. This was done to reduce payroll expenses.
EPA employees have been some of the most hostile to the new administration’s policies. An anonymous EPA communications career employee told Pro-Publica in January that “more than a few friends were ‘coming to work in tears’ each morning as they grappled with balancing the practical need to keep their jobs with their concerns for the issues they work on.”
Trump pledged during his campaign to get rid of the agency “in almost every form,” leaving only “little tidbits left.” Many of EPA employees were so scared of Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to head the agency, they called their senators to complain.
A leaked memo from Trump’s transition team indicates that the administration ultimately plans $513 million in cuts to the “states and tribal assistance grants,” $193 million from eliminating agency global warming programs and another $109 million in savings through cutting “environment programs and management.”
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