Campaign: Department of Health and Human Services

Lodging Per Diem Policy Change - Noncommericial Lodging

Lodging Per Diem Policy Change (easy to implement, immediate savings) - allow employees to file lodging claims at a significantly reduced rates (say 20-30% of lodging allowance) without receipts to encourage them to stay with family or friends instead of hotels where feasible.

 

Simplifies processing of travel claims (saving labor time scanning receipts, time spent on audits of receipts) and cuts down on the total cost of federal travel expense each time the revised policy is used. Could save the government tens of millions of $ if just a small % of overall federal travelers can make use of a revised federal travel regulation to permit. Implementation can be enacted quickly through amendment the Joint Federal Travel Regulation with parameters for allowable situations (must be cost saving when factoring in other possible expenses such as transport). This would be a program similar to those that allow employees to claim half the cost of an airline ticket if they use their personal frequent flier miles instead of a government procured ticket.

 

This idea could be expanded upon with other permutations or options:

 

A) one option would be no payment to the traveler but they can direct 20-30% of the lodging cost saved back to the Treasury for deficit reduction or

 

B) Traveler can choose to direct the 20-30% to a Combined Federal Campaign Charity of their choice.

 

C) Top savers at each agency could be recognized through an honor award process for appropriate saving benchmarks. Top savers in the USG recognized at higher level.

 

D) Create an incentive for travelers to choose less expensive commericial lodging, such that they receive a small % (say 10%) for each dollar below 70% of the maximum lodging allowance for a TDY travel destination. So if the lodging allowance is $200 a night, but they accept accomodation at a hotel costing less than 140 per night (80% of allowance), they would receive 5% of the difference. So say they stay at a $100 a night hotel instead, they would get 10% of $60. These figure would need adjustment/rules to ensure it's just enough to incentivize travelers to stay at economy lodging but not stay at unsafe commerical lodging.

 

Another idea expansion to consider piloting for effectiveness is to enable federal employees to host other federal employees they may know or network with to encourage noncommericial lodging options. This expands the overall potential to avoid commercial lodging by taking advantage of professional relationships across different locations.

 

Example: Staff member from a USG agency comes TDY to Washington DC where the lodging per diem ranges from $170 to $229 per night depending on the month, the average actual is ~$200. The agency has some 200 TDYers to Washington DC each year but has 70 staff living in the metro area near the DC offices. A staff member living in the DC area "hosts" the TDY colleague (if mutually agreed, strictly done on voluntary basis) and they both split a small incentive benefit. For illustration let's say $25 per night per person (10% of the DC average max lodging allowance) to each participant (host and TDYer) rather than 25% to the traveler alone) and the US taxpayers save $150 per night. And if the TDY individual is going to the agency office, they may also save on taxi costs by carpooling to the office. This option would require a fiscal process for payment to the federal host. Data for our agency in our present location (not DC) shows a potential savings of ~$20,000 per month (conservatively). This is $240,000 for one agency and one location. Across the federal govt, savings could be hundreds of millions of $. Employing this process at my agency alone could save an estimated $2.5 million a year. Because hard data on travelers and lodging costs are available, it's possible to developed very accurate estimates of potential savings and tracks savings to taxpayers. Could be piloted with agencies significant staff presence overseas (State, USAID, CDC) and studied for impact where lodging allowace rates tend to be much higher ($260 a night for Nairobi, $221 Beijing, $194 for Pretoria, $292 Geneva, etc)

 

The scale of incentive could be adapted with lower % for higher per diem rate cities, with a minimum benefit (say $25)and maximum benefit (say $40) based on the maximum allowable per diem rate for that locality. While it's acknowledged that probably less than 2% of federal traveler will make use of this policy change, the aggregate $ saved should range in the 10's of millions across the federal government given the over volume of travel and total lodging nights currently paid a commercial rates.

 

Social networking tools available today would make it very easy to make connections between employees.

 

Steps to implement:

a) Primary - Amend the Joint Federal Travel Regulations ยง301-11.12(c) to allow for lodging claims at reduced rates without a receipt just as most MI&E per diem is done now.

 

For additional options/permutations...

b) set up processes whereby a % of savings goes directly back to the treasury instead of being available for again agency spending.

c) set up processes for charity donations of incentive instead of direct payment to traveler as an option or possibly putting savings into other federal projects with such as solar groves over federal/state/county parking spaces such that savings go into environmental projects that generate longer term savings for the govt/public.

b) Come up with a standardized form to file with travel claims for situations where one federal employee hosts another and split a small daily incentive. When the travel claim is paid, the benefit to the hosting employee would be processed along the same lines that a cash award is processed for federal employees.

c) set up reporting to OMB on program effectiveness and savings to taxpayers during a 2-3 year study period.

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Idea No. 639