The Internal Revenue Service sent hundreds, possibly thousands, of costly, last-minute overnight letters via UPS last week notifying employees of a series of five-day furloughs starting May 24.
The IRS said it doesn’t know how many workers got the letters or the price tag for the mailings. It said that the “vast majority” of its 89,000 workers were notified by email.
Although the IRS didn’t have figures on the cost of the letters, an employee involved in the process said under the agency contract with UPS the letters probably cost only $3.45 each. Other employees who received the overnight-letter notice estimated the cost ranged from $10 to $13 each and that workers on several campuses in different parts of the country got them. (UPS said overnight delivery for a single letter from Washington, D.C., to Cincinnati, Ohio, would be $36.50 at the non-group rate.)
The furloughs are the result of the White House-Congress sequestration program, which required most agencies to make across-the-board cuts. Many responded by saying they would be forced to furlough employees and curtail vital services such as air traffic control, customs and border patrol, weather forecasting and other key, high-profile operations.
An IRS spokesperson said the agency was required by law “to ensure all employees received a proposal letter about the impending furloughs 30 days in advance of the first furlough day.” For IRS that meant the letters had to go out by last week, with the first furlough day scheduled for May 24. IRS employees will take their other unpaid days off on June 14, July 5, July 22 and Aug. 30. Most employees, except for those in essential maintenance and safety jobs, will be furloughed.
While most people were notified via email (if they have IRS accounts), the IRS said “we tried to minimize costs as much as possible by utilizing various methods of delivery including email to those employees with an IRS email account, providing a hardcopy of the notice to employees working on the day of issuance but without an IRS email account, and, overnight mail delivery to employees in non-work status or where there was a reasonable expectation that they would not return to work on April 23. We don’t have a specific number or estimate at this point … on the number of mailings, but the vast majority of employees received notification by email or paper copies while they were in-duty status.”
One IRS employee told Federal News Radio producer Beth Reardon that lots of people on her campus got the letters. She said her boss was “flipping out angry” because of the cost. Sequestration is supposed to save money, right?
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