New regs for Thursday: Welfare fraud, mechanics pay, wage garnishment

Thursday's edition of the Federal Register contains new rules to combat welfare fraud, change how military auto mechanics are paid and garnish the wages of people who owe money to the U.S. Postal Service.

Here's what is happening:

Welfare: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is looking to combat welfare fraud.

The USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) announced Wednesday it is moving forward with a final rule that requires states to investigate when a person on welfare requests an excessive amount of replacement benefit cards. 

The Food and Nutrition Service uses electronic benefit transfer cards to help lower-income people purchase food under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. But some people cheat the system by selling their benefit cards to people who are not on welfare and requesting new ones for themselves. 

So the Food and Nutrition Service is finalizing a rule that requires states agencies to send a warning notice to people who request four or more cards within a year.

Wages: The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is moving forward with a rule that would establish a flat-rate pay system for the military's civilian auto mechanics that currently work for commission, despite complaints that it would ruin productivity. 

The Office of Personnel Management said the move was necessary to recruit and retain auto mechanics who would otherwise work for the private sector, because it uses a flat-rate system that generally pays better.

"Different from the commission pay practice, the proposed flat rate pay plan would not be linked to shop labor rates, but would instead take into account local prevailing rates, the mechanic's skill level, and the standard number of hours required to complete a particular job," the agency wrote.

The rule goes into effect immediately.

USPS: The United States Postal Service (USPS) is considering a rule that would allow it to collect debts owed to the agency by taking the money out of a private sector worker's paycheck. 

Known as administrative wage garnishment, the Postal Service would refer these cases to the Treasury Department's Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS), the agency that actually collects the debts and gives it to USPS. 

The Postal Service would be required to provide debtors with notices and administrative proceedings, such as a hearing, before referring the case to the Treasury Department. 

The public has 60 days to comment.

Respiratory devices: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is extending the comment period on respiratory protective devices that are used by healthcare professionals in dangerous situations so they do not breath in toxic chemicals from the air.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a division of HHS, requested information on the safety of these devices in March. The deadline to comment was originally April 14, but has been pushed back to April 30.

Student loans: The Department of Education is considering collecting less information from student loan discharge applications because it does not believe the information is necessary.

The public has 60 days to comment.