In an attempt to “reshape” its workforce, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has allocated $12 million to buy out employees.
The Washington Post obtained a memo distributed earlier in May by the agency’s acting chief financial officer detailing employee buyout plans. The buyouts are aimed at reducing the EPA’s workforce in compliance with an executive order issued by President Trump seeking to eliminate waste and redundancies in federal agencies.
Trump’s budget called for a 31 percent cut to the EPA’s budget and a 25 percent reduction in its workforce of 15,000. The agency began offering employee buyouts in April when Mike Flynn, EPA’s acting deputy administrator, informed regional administrators and other agency officials that the White House wanted “immediate actions” taken to reduce the agency’s workforce. The EPA ceased hiring new employees in January.
Liz Bowman, a spokeswoman for the EPA, told The Washington Post the following:
“Streamlining and reorganizing is good government and important to maximizing taxpayer dollars. 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.”
Cash buyouts offered to EPA employees will range up to $25,000, allowing federal workers to retire early before they would qualify for full benefits.
In an effort to reduce payroll expenses in 2014, the Obama administration’s EPA paid more than $11 million in incentives to prompt 436 employees to voluntarily leave their jobs.
EPA employees have been critical of the Trump administration’s policies, with an anonymous EPA communications career employee telling 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.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump vowed to get rid of the agency “in almost every form,” with only “little tidbits left.” Following Trump’s selection of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, many of its employees were so scared of the choice that they called their senators to complain.
According to a leaked memo from the Trump transition team, the administration ultimately plans to cut $513 million from “states and tribal assistance grants,” $193 million from global warming programs and $109 million from “environment programs and management.”
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