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Agencies can ask staff for Sandy relief donations

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The Office of Personnel Management on Nov. 2 permitted federal agencies to solicit employees for donations to assist the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

John Berry, director of OPM, told agency heads that the agency would make an exception to allow a special solicitation of federal employees.

"Special solicitations will allow Federal, postal and military personnel to assist the disaster relief efforts with a one-time cash or check donation," says Berry.

Agencies can raise money through Nov. 21 and must note that any contributions made for this disaster relief are not part of the ongoing Combined Federal Campaign. Contributions made through the CFC, however, may benefit the same charities but contributions likely won't reach victims as quickly.

Since the efforts are being done outside of the CFC, OPM notes that employees cannot use payroll deductions to provide relief donations.

For agencies with employees directly affected by the disaster, they do not need to gain OPM's approval to raise money directly for employees and their family members. Berry strongly encourages any agency or department looking to provide this type of assistance to do so with guidance from its ethics counsel or general counsel.

As agencies react to the storm's aftermath in different ways, the Commerce Department's Patent and Trademark Office says its telework policy allowed the agency to run at 70 percent capacity during the storm.

The agency's telework policy allowed employees to evacuate and stay farther inland but still provide work despite federal office closures.

Its Trademark Assistance Center, a call center for attorneys and trademark owners with questions about the trademark process, was "fully operational during the Hurricane Sandy closure, with 100 percent participation from the work-at-home employees," says David Kappos, under secretary of commerce for intellectual property and director of the PTO.

Thomas Richards, an OPM spokesman, told the Washington Post that the agency believes one-third of the 300,000 Washington D.C. metro area's federal employees teleworked during the storm.

For more:
- see Berry's statement from the OPM
- read Kappos' blog post on telework
- read FEMA's list of donation and volunteer options
- find places to eat that are supporting Manhattan's recovery efforts (Village Voice)

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