COVID-19 and GVRA Information and Resources

This page reflects agency communication as it relates to COVID-19, GVRA's response and information for staff. 

Guidance on Reopening GVRA (6.12.20)
On June 15, 2020, we begin transitioning into the first phase of our reopening, which includes staggered teleworking schedules like those utilized prior to sheltering in place. (Please note that further direction from the Office of the Governor over the weekend could supersede this timeline and will be communicated promptly.) We will reopen our doors to the public by appointment only and implement procedures that keep our environments safe. Staff are advised to continue social distancing, considering logistics and available space before physically meeting and seeing clients/customers in person only when absolutely necessary. During our transition back into our physical locations, we will frequently reevaluate the efficacy of our precautionary measures, following directives from the Office of the Governor and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Public Health (DPH) as we progress toward more relaxed protocol.  

You will find details as to how our initial return will look in this guidance document.

A Further Update (5.15.20)
GVRA received an update from the Office of the Governor directing state agencies to continue operating under current Public Health Emergency protocol through May 31, 2020. This supersedes the communication all staff received earlier this afternoon. Employees who are able to telework should continue to do so, and admin-office closure leave will be extended for those unable to perform the essential functions of their positions remotely.

We anticipate further guidance at the end of the month. For now, carry on as you have been.  

An Update On State Agency Response To COVID-19 (5.13.20)
On 5.12, Gov. Brian Kemp provided an update on the state’s response to COVID-19. As we prepare for a gradual transition back to more standard operations, our facilities team and other staff have worked hard to ensure we return to clean and safe work environments. While the Governor broadly referenced the reopening of some state functions Monday, May 18th, we are awaiting more specific guidance from the Department of Administrative Services (DOAS) later this week. Once we receive additional direction, we will share details of a phased plan that will ensure alignment with directives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Georgia Department of Public Health.

Please check your email and our agency website (gvs.ga.gov) frequently for updates over the next few days.

A Memo from GVRA Executive Director Shawn Ryan: An update on COVID-19 response/operations (4.30.20)
In the weeks ahead, GVRA will begin a phased-in process of returning to regular business operations. However, with the expiration of the state’s Shelter in Place order today, many of you may have questions about immediate changes.
 
The answer is, for the time being, we will continue to operate under our current structure. If you are teleworking, you will continue to do so. Those on Admin-Office Closure leave will also continue to receive that benefit.  
 
Currently, GVRA leadership is developing plans for a modified return to in-office reporting protocol. Our plan will be incremental and will allow flexibility for extenuating circumstances. Our approach will provide guidance for office coverage, address teleconferencing options for client meetings and describe best practices for safety and good workplace hygiene. Please look for future emails and to your supervisors for more specific guidance.
 
Thank you for your patience and flexibility over the past few weeks. For now, carry on as you have been. Together, we will emerge from these challenges with renewed drive and focus on our mission.

Be Aware of Individuals Trying to Gain Access to Buildings Under False Pretenses (4.22.20)
Due in part to the situation surrounding COVID-19, there have been recent attempts by scammers to gain access to buildings by pretending to be service vendors, most commonly cleaning crews. Vendors who are not scheduled for services or who seem questionable should be not allowed inside GVRA facilities without prior verification.  

COVID Cybersecurity Training Reminder (4.14.20)
This is a reminder that employees are required to take the following training: Q1: Mandatory Training Staying Cybersecure While Working Remotely (COVID 19). It must be completed by April 17. Team members at Disability Adjudication Services will be granted an extension to complete this, as many are on administrative/office closure leave. A link to the training will have come from the Georgia Cybersecurity Training Platform. 

Shelter In Place Order Extended April 30 (4.9.20)
On 4.8.20, Governor Brian Kemp announced he is extending the shelter in place order already implemented statewide through April 30. As you already know, the order provides for basic needs, like grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, outings related to the care of medically-fragile loved ones and fulfilling responsibilities for essential jobs and services. Here is previous guidance the Governor’s Office and Department of Public Health have released to help answer many of your frequently asked questions.

This extension comes after an earlier announcement continuing Georgia’s Public Health State of Emergency through May 13 (read more here). At this time, administrative-office closure leave eligibility for some state employees continues through the original date of April 30.

At GVRA, we have aligned all our operations with the shelter in place order and also with best practices for social distancing and environmental safety. Property and Facilities and Fiscal Services staff are leading the charge to ensure every office is cleaned and disinfected before employees return. We continue teleworking operations throughout several of our programs. Where staff remain on the job, we have implemented. 

Shawn Ryan
Executive Director

State of Georgia Shelter in Place Order (4.3.20)
As many of you may know, Governor Brian Kemp signed into effect an executive order last night mandating that Georgia’s citizens stay at home with exceptions for essential employees and critical business operations. The order also provides for basic needs, like grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions and outings related to the care of medically-fragile loved ones. You can read the full order here, and you will also find additional guidance to many frequently asked questions here.

At GVRA, we have been prepared for such an order for weeks, and we have adjusted the way we do business accordingly. Most of our Vocational Rehabilitation staff are already working from home, conducting client meetings and counseling via phone. Many of our vital administrative functions occur by email or teleconference, providing opportunities for coworkers to exchange information and ideas, while still following social distancing protocol. Other programs have adapted, with reduced staff schedules, opportunities for administrative-office closure leave for certain groups of employees and more stringent sanitation protocol for those who remain on the job. Please note, if you are able to telework, you are discouraged from coming to your office locations unnecessarily. Our facilities should have as little foot traffic as possible to decrease potential exposure and allow cleaning crews to do their work. 

While many of our physical locations are closed, Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency remains open for business. Keep doing what you are doing. Our current situation may be seen as a temporary disruption to our usual routines, but I want to remind you that the actions we are all taking to help stop the spread of this pandemic exemplify our care for one another. Even though you are not physically connected to your coworkers and clients, you are still very much present in their lives and critical to the fulfillment of our mission.

Stay safe, healthy and look to your supervisors for answers to any basic operational questions. We look forward to fully reopening in the very near future.

Thank you for all you do.

Shawn Ryan 
Executive Director

Disinfecting Local Offices (4.2.20)
As we work to ensure safety for our employees and clients, we want to provide some insight into the methods we are using to sanitize and disinfect our field offices in response to COVID-19. As Executive Director Ryan mandated, no offices are to reopen for business as usual until thorough cleaning is complete. We are developing a schedule that aligns with the extension of the Governor’s Executive Order to state agencies through April 30.
 
Our cleaning contractors will use a product called EnviroShield. Below are some basic facts about the product.
 

  • It kills 99.9% of all harmful bacteria, i.e. MRSA, H1N1, E.coli and listeria
  • Meets CDC cleaning requirements
  • Hospital grade chemicals used
  • Prevents regrowth and spread of microbial germs for up to 3 months
  • EPA approved
  • Does not cause skin, eye or respiratory problems
  • Safe to use in offices on keyboards, telephones, desk printers, etc.

Additionally, a rigorous cleaning schedule is in development for our 200 Piedmont offices. That process requires no action on the part of employees. However, please monitor your emails for updates on days and times when the office will be off limits to staff.
 
We look forward to a safe, healthy return to operations in the future. Look for additional information regarding the preventative measures in place to make that return possible.

New Update from Executive Director Shawn Ryan (3.31.20)
I want to reassure you, your health and the wellbeing of our clients is paramount. In my message to all of you yesterday, I shared that I will not reopen any GVRA location before it is thoroughly sanitized to prevent the spread of illness. To accommodate that cleaning timeline, allow for social distancing and align with a new directive Monday night from the Office of Governor Brian Kemp, I am now extending our current operating status through April 30. 

While we continue to work toward fulfillment of our mission and provide responsive service to our customers and partners, we will do so primarily via telephonic and virtual platforms. This time provides an excellent opportunity to call clients, ensure case files are well-maintained, engage in digital training, update performance document templates and collaborate with colleagues digitally. Even with our physical office doors closed, GVRA remains open for business.

We understand some programs are largely ineligible for teleworking options. In these cases, program leadership will follow up with staff and reiterate response plans and procedures. Where individuals remain on the job, stringent preventative measures and protocol are in place to protect everyone involved.

Managers should continue to assist those staff who are on administrative-office closure leave by documenting their leave time in PeopleSoft. All other staff should report hours teleworked accurately, documenting time each day. In addition, supervisors and employees should maintain close communication, discussing work plans and progress on various projects. It is important that you make sure your manager knows how to reach you, both to facilitate continuing operations and also to ensure you are safe and well.

Thank you for your patience during these challenges. Please remember—these adjustments are temporary and will help us make sure everyone returns safely in the near future.

A Message from the Executive Director: Continuing our important work during COVID-19 response (3.30.20)
I hope each of you are in good health and are following all ordinances and best practices intended to keep you and your families safe. As we receive further guidance from the Office of the Governor, we will pass that information along and apply any directives across our programs.

At this time, clean environments are our key priority. Our facilities and fiscal staff is coordinating with program leadership and local managers to ensure deep cleaning statewide. We will not restore any locations to standard operations until those sites are fully sanitized. Your managers will provide any forthcoming updates.

If you are currently teleworking, please continue to do so as we begin this new week. Ensure you are communicating regularly with your managers to prioritize tasks. Additionally, please check your email frequently and look for updates at gvs.ga.gov and on social media.

Thank you for your ongoing dedication and commitment to do good work. Though our present challenges are unprecedented, the importance of our mission remains constant, and each of you play a key role to fulfill that mission. We will navigate the coming weeks together.

Georgia Human Resources Administration COVID-19 Response FAQ (3.30.20)
State governments throughout the United States are responding to the spread of COVID-19.  The state of Georgia is no exception to this effort.

Thus, to help you guide your agency through this situation, the Department of Administrative Services/Human Resources Administration has posted a COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions document on our COVID-19 website.

This document was created by the Department of Administrative Services, in collaboration with the Governor’s Office, Office of Planning and Budget, State Accounting Office, and Department of Public Health.

The FAQ document provides guidelines and resources that may be helpful in responding to issues and questions related to COVID-19. It also addresses such issues as leave/pay status, workforce concerns, workers’ compensation, teleworking, and employee relations.
 
You may access the FAQs at the HRA COVID-19 website by clicking here.  In addition to the FAQ document, the site contains other HR COVID-19 related resources and information. Additional information will be added to the site as needed.

Managers: Entering Administrative/Emergency Closure Leave
As part of GVRA's decision to close some offices to the public in an effort to help combat the spread of COVID-19, Administrative/Emergency Closure leave is available to employees whose job duties do not support a telework arrangement. Managers of these employees will need to familiarize themselves with how to enter Administrative/Emergency Closure leave and should utilize the following guidance:

Managers will need to enter Administrative/Emergency Closure leave in Time and Labor on behalf of employees who are affected by office closures and are not eligible to telework. For a step-by-step breakdown of how managers can enter such leave for employees, click here.

Employees who are teleworking, yet may not have enough work tasks to fill their daily or weekly schedule, are required to record their actual work hours in Time and Labor for the part of the day they are working. Employees should record Administrative/Emergency Closure leave in Time and Labor for any time in which they do not have work tasks to perform.

NOTE: Administrative/Emergency Closure leave is not an elective form of leave and is only available to employees whose offices have been closed and whose job duties do not support a telework arrangement.

Questions regarding Time and Labor should be directed to the Agency’s Time and Labor Specialist, Arthur Bryant, arthur.bryant@gvs.ga.gov.

COVID-19 and GVRA: Frequently Asked Questions
The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing rapidly, and we know you have questions. Here are some of the more frequent questions we've received as well as answers to those questions.

If an employee thinks they are ill and needs to self-isolate, do they need to provide a doctors statement?
No, at this time we are not requiring employees to provide medical documentation regarding any possible COVID-19 exposure or illness. The agency does not want to add any additional burdens on our current healthcare system and requiring employees to submit medical documentation would not only increase this burden but also be difficult for the employee to obtain. NOTE: If an employee reports a confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 illness or a confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 illness of a household member, it is imperative that GVRA’s Human Resources Director be notified immediately at: jennifer.statham@gvs.ga.gov or (404)232-1991. The Human Resources Director in conjunction with the Executive Director and General Counsel will provide guidance and communication on the Agency’s plan of action to handle these types of situations.

Can employees who are self-isolating telework or do they need to take sick leave?
This will really be up to the employee. If the employee feels well enough to telework, then they should be allowed to do so. Otherwise, they should use sick, annual, comp, personal or authorized leave without pay to cover the absence. Exposure to or illnesses related to COVID-19 are not eligible for Admin/Office closure leave, though Administrative Emergency Closure leave has been authorized for some employees due to other circumstances (see Managers: Entering Administrative/Emergency Closure Leave above).

If an employee wants to go to the office to print or mail documents are they allowed to go into the office?
This will be at the discretion of managers based on guidance provided by Program Directors. It is important to note that the Agency is using this time to ensure offices are cleaned and sanitized. Employees who can telework should be strongly encouraged to do so exclusively to avoid derailing the cleaning efforts of the Agency. Once an office has been cleaned and sanitized, and to prevent potential re-contamination issues, it is strongly recommended that employees not be allowed to go back into the office until such time that the Governor has determined the COVID-19 crisis has diminished and has lifted the telework requirement.

When staff are entering time, what time reporting code should they use?
It depends. If they are actually working – even teleworking – they would enter time as if they were working in the office. Although there is a telework code, employees are not required to use this code at this time. If they are on a type of paid leave, then they would enter the code for whatever type of paid leave they are using. If they are unable to telework and are affected by an office closure, then the employee’s manager should be documenting Admin/Office Closure leave for those employees in Time and Labor (again, see above).

If an employee was on previously approved paid leave or previously approved leave without pay or had an approved leave previously scheduled prior to any office closure, are they still required to use their paid leave?
Yes, employees who are on previously-approved paid leave or previously-approved leave without pay are not affected by an office closure and are still required to use their own paid leave or leave without pay, if applicable (this includes Family and Medical Leave Absences not related to the current COVID-19 crisis). Additionally, any employee who has a future-approved absence that occurs after an office closure must still use their paid leave during the previously-approved absence period, unless the employee requests, in writing, to rescind the leave and the manager approves the request. It is important to note that the Agency recognizes that employees who had previously approved leave for vacation purposes may have had to cancel their plans because of the current COVID-19 crisis. In these instances Human Resources encourages managers to allow employees to rescind their previous requests for leave. Once a pre-approved absence has ended, and if offices are still closed, the employee would then be eligible for admin/office closure leave or should resume teleworking.

Is Your Payroll Information Up to Date?
While most staff are operating remotely, please take a moment to ensure that all payroll information in TeamWorks (PeopleSoft) is up to date. You can access your personal information under the self-serve menu.

•           If you receive your check via direct deposit, ensure your banking/deposit information is accurate.

•           Paper checks will be mailed on our payroll date. Checks will not be available for in-person pickup. Please ensure we have a current mailing address in TeamWorks to avoid potential issues in delivery.

Thank you for attending to this matter in a timely fashion and helping us serve you more efficiently.

Use of Fleet Vehicles Suspended
In this time of limited operations in response to COVID-19, GVRA is suspending the use of all fleet vehicles. If you have dropped off a vehicle for a service or repair that is completed, please make arrangements to return the vehicle to its assigned location. If you have dropped off a vehicle for a repair that is not yet completed, and the vehicle is inoperable, please make arrangements to have it towed back to its assigned location.