Thursday morning federal headlines – Nov. 1, 2012

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Emily Kopp discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • While federal Washington gets back to work, the same can’t be said of New York or New Jersey. The Federal Executive Board in New York City is recommending offices in Lower Manhattan remain close today and tomorrow. Buildings may not have power restored until Saturday. It is recommending that other city-based agencies use unscheduled- or administrative-leave policies. About 47,000 feds work in New York City, many of them for the Postal Service. (New York City FEB)
  • The State Department is reviewing an embassy’s use of a website that promotes digital piracy. The U.S. embassy in Vietnam has been using a social media account on to reach a younger audience. The site lets users download illegal copies of songs and Hollywood movies. The department said the embassy created the account to reach the public in the restricted environment of Communist Vietnam. But a spokesperson said some of the website’s contents were “suspect” and run counter to the Internet freedom policy of the U.S. (Federal News Radio)
  • The General Services Administration said its buildings have survived Sandy largely unscathed. It is still monitoring all facilities in the storm’s path and assessing flooding and power outages. But a spokesman said GSA has not found any major structural damage. About 4,000 GSA employees in the effected areas have been teleworking all this time. The agency is providing emergency supplies and services to aid the recovery effort. That includes 1,000 chainsaws it delivered to first responders in Pennsylvania. (GSA)
  • While the nation has fixated on the election and Hurricane Sandy, a stalker is creeping up on the government. The Treasury Department said it will reach its legal borrowing limit by the end of the year. But the department said it has emergency powers to let it keep borrowing into the first quarter of 2013, or until Congress acts. The current debt ceiling is just under $16.4 trillion. The Wall Street Journal reports, the protracted fight over the last hike in the ceiling undermined confidence. And that forced the government to pay higher interest rates. Plus the U.S. lost its triple A credit rating. (Treasury/Wall Street Journal)
  • Agencies are easing federal requirements for victims of Hurricane Sandy. The Environmental Protection Agency is waiving some Clean Air Act requirements in 16 states and the District until Nov. 20. That will let stations in those areas sell conventional gasoline, instead of the ethanol-infused version. Administrator Lisa Jackson said the storm may be hindering fuel transportation. The Internal Revenue Service is extending yesterday’s deadline for payroll and excise tax returns for one more week. The Education Department is giving school districts in the affected areas until Nov. 7 to apply for Race-to-the-Top grants. For other districts, tomorrow is still the deadline. (Federal News Radio)
  • Now there’s a report to confirm what many Homeland Security employees might have suspected: they’re not as happy as other feds. DHS staff have lower morale, on average, than the rest of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office said that could hurt the department’s success. DHS knows it and has been trying to figure out the root causes of the morale problems. GAO said the department should better measure its efforts. It should look for patterns according to demographics and benchmark against similar organizations. (GAO)