December 09, 2020

NH Delegation Urges Congressional Appropriations Leadership to Avert Mass Layoffs at Portsmouth National Passport Center & Provide COVID-19 Financial Relief to Office of Passport Services

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Appropriations Committees, and U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Representatives Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Chris Pappas (NH-01) urged congressional appropriations leadership to avert mass layoffs that have already begun and may continue to occur as a result of decreased passport demand due to COVID-19 and the State Department’s decision to cut the jobs of hundreds of contract employees working within the Office of Passport Services nationwide. The letter urges congressional leaders to provide financial relief to the agency in any COVID-19 package. The letter follows Shaheen’s call to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to reevaluate these job cuts and help alleviate their impact, which resulted in a portion of these employees being asked to return to their jobs. The National Passport Center in Portsmouth is the nation’s largest passport processing facility. In their letter, the delegation called for the approval of funding that would prevent these job cuts and mitigate the effects on employees and their families.

 

The number of contractors employed by Passport Services is dependent on passport demand, which has been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the delegation noted that that the State Department’s lack of planning and order around staffing decisions at the Passport Service facilities continues to be of great concern, and that the haphazard nature of the dismissals – some involving employees who have worked at these facilities for decades – appears set to damage the ability of these facilities to return to normal operations once demand for passports goes back to pre-pandemic levels.

 

“…Maintaining a workforce of experienced and appropriately cleared personnel will be integral to ensuring the processing capacity expected by the public, particularly if there is a surge in passport demand following the pandemic,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-TX). “Therefore, we strongly encourage you to provide sufficient funding in any COVID relief legislation for passport operations, so that personnel employed by this agency can continue to facilitate international travel and provide critical services to American citizens and residents.”

 

They concluded, “Our nation faces unprecedented challenges as a result of this pandemic. We ought not make the situation worse by failing to fund the Passport Services contract appropriately.”

 

The letter can be read in full here.

 

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