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Congressman Jamie Raskin

Representing the 8th District of Maryland

Raskin Calls Out USDA Decision to Reduce Buyouts for ERS and NIFA Employees

August 23, 2019
Press Release

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) led a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue opposing the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) decision to dramatically reduce the federal buyouts offered to Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) employees who have opted against relocating to the Kansas City Region. Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Don Beyer (D-VA), Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), Anthony Brown (D-MD), and David Trone (D-MD) also signed the letter. 

The Members wrote:

"Many of our constituents were counting on your agency to offer $25,000 VSIPs (Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments)— the maximum possible amount payable for a federal buyout. $25,000 VSIPs would help offset the financial difficulties associated with being suddenly without a job, with being barred from the federal workforce for a period of five years after separation, and with having to relinquish priority for federal employment under the Career Transition Assistance Program (CTAP) and the Interagency Career Transition Assistance Program (ICTAP)."

The Members continued:

"Inexplicably on August 20th, your agency informed employees that the buyout amount previously approved for all applicants 'had changed from $25,000 to $10,000.' Employees are now expected to decide by August 26th whether to accept their drastically reduced VSIPs. This sudden switch is plainly unconscionable and unacceptable."

The Members remain staunchly opposed to the USDA's decision to relocate ERS and NIFA to the Kansas City Region and urge Secretary Perdue to offer the maximum allowable buyout payment so that affected employees are not forced to endure further hardship. Full text of the letter follows below, and a signed copy is available here.


Dear Secretary Perdue,

We write to you as Members of the National Capital Region to express our profound concern about the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to dramatically reduce Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments (VSIPs) offered to employees of the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) who have opted against relocating to the Kansas City Region.

On June 13th your agency informed ERS and NIFA employees of plans to offer VSIPs to those who separate “by Resignation, Optional Retirement or Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA).” You subsequently gave employees until July 15th to notify your agency of their intent to decline relocation orders. Employees were only given one week, from July 22nd through 29th, to apply for buyouts. This tight timeline imposed by your agency has naturally caused tremendous family strain and personal hardship.

Many of our constituents were counting on your agency to offer $25,000 VSIPs— the maximum possible amount payable for a federal buyout. $25,000 VSIPs would help offset the financial difficulties associated with being suddenly without a job, with being barred from the federal workforce for a period of five years after separation, and with having to relinquish priority for federal employment under the Career Transition Assistance Program (CTAP) and the Interagency Career Transition Assistance Program (ICTAP).

Inexplicably on August 20th, your agency informed employees that the buyout amount previously approved for all applicants “had changed from $25,000 to $10,000.” Employees are now expected to decide by August 26th whether to accept their drastically reduced VSIPs. This sudden switch is plainly unconscionable and unacceptable.

We remain staunchly opposed to your agency’s decision to relocate ERS and NIFA to the Kansas City Region. If, however, you proceed with this move, we urge you to offer the maximum allowable VSIPs so that your employees are not forced to endure further hardship. We request your immediate attention to this matter and look forward to your response.

Very truly yours,

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