The IRS is recalling thousands of workers and issued a memo suggesting they make their own facemasks out of clothing and cloth.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., condemned the IRS for bringing workers back without providing PPE.
"It is understandable that in carrying out its mission during a crisis, the agency would require some employees to report back to work during perilous times," they wrote in a statement, per the report. "However, it is completely irresponsible and unethical for the IRS to demand those workers obtain their own protective equipment — this is the responsibility of the federal government to its workers."
The recalled workers are "certain employees in mission-critical functions" and they will return Monday, according to an internal memo posted by the House Ways and Means Committee.
"Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, public health measure," the human resources email read.
"Accordingly, effective April 27, 2020, all individuals are to wear cloth face coverings while in IRS facilities and workspaces. Although the IRS is seeking to procure personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves, each IRS facility may not be able to initially procure the PPE for all employees immediately. Employees are therefore required to bring personal face coverings for their nose and mouth area when they come to work."
The "initial wave" getting back to work in the shuttered processing and taxpayer assistance centers include 10,000 employees at 10 locales that will be "opening taxpayer correspondence, handling tax documents, taking taxpayer telephone calls and performing other functions related to the filing season," National Treasury Employees Union head Tony Reardon told Politico.
"We are communicating with the IRS about working conditions at those facilities to make sure there are adequate cleaning and disinfecting supplies, accommodations to allow for physical distancing among employees and personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves," Reardon told Politico.
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