Democratic lawmakers: 'Completely irresponsible' for IRS to demand essential workers provide own PPE

Democratic lawmakers: 'Completely irresponsible' for IRS to demand essential workers provide own PPE
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Rep. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump threatens Postal Service funding l Biden proposes national mask mandate l Democratic convention takes shape Morse supporters call for investigation into reports that allegations were engineered Allegations roil progressive insurgent's House bid MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. John LewisJohn LewisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Harris launch Trump offensive in first joint appearance More than 50 Confederate monuments have been removed since Floyd's death: report Trump rips Bill Maher as 'exhausted, gaunt and weak' MORE (D-Ga.) called it “completely irresponsible and unethical” for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to mandate essential workers provide their own personal protective equipment (PPE) in a statement Saturday.

Neal, who serves as the Ways and Means Committee chairman, and Lewis, who serves as the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee chairman, issued a statement after obtaining an email from the IRS addressed to employees.

The email said employees who answer phones, process mail and complete other “mission-critical work” will need to return to work on Monday and find and wear their own cloth face coverings. It continues that the IRS is trying to obtain PPE, but each facility “may not be able to initially procure the PPE for all employees immediately.”

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“Employees are therefore required to bring personal face coverings for their nose and mouth area when they come to work,” the email reads. 

The two chairmen said in their statement that they understand that some employees need to work “during these perilous times” but added the PPE should be provided by the federal government. 

“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 lawmakers said.

Neal and Lewis said the IRS is “expecting entirely too much” of its employees, who are likely “distraught over the health risks” of resuming work. 

They called the IRS’s mandate “troubling,” citing IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig's comments to congressional staff that 100 employees have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, and four have died.

“The IRS should not require any employees it deems essential to report to work until it is able to provide those individuals with the protective equipment they are required to wear,” the representatives said. 

States have struggled to obtain enough PPE for their hospitals as they have competed against each other in bidding wars, governors have said.