(Source: Commissioner's Corner, Nov. 2, 2017)
I want to thank all of you for your good work in answering the call to help your co-workers and citizens across the U.S.
We’ve had several natural disasters this fall, and I’m touched by your willingness to help where you’re needed. We kept you updated as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria struck portions of the mainland, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Our first concern is always for the safety and security of our employees, and many of you worked tirelessly to locate members of our IRS family to ensure they were safe and accounted for during these disasters. We also worked to get those IRS areas affected by the storms back up and running so we could continue our service to taxpayers. We created an incident management team for each storm, and our Senior Commissioner’s Representatives organization was instrumental in helping us navigate through these multiple events. Nearly every business unit and thousands of employees were involved to ensure that our affected colleagues were safe and that the IRS could continue its operations.
We also reached out to you to volunteer to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Small Business Administration with the recovery efforts. Your response was tremendous. We received nearly 2,000 email inquiries, more than 500 phone calls and close to 600 applications. While FEMA applications have closed, the SBA application process (.pdf is internal IRS link only) is still ongoing.
So far, we’ve deployed more than 130 volunteers from business units across the agency to help FEMA’s Surge Capacity Force. HCO’s Workforce Benefits Program and Workforce Relations Division are coordinating these activities and adapting our policies to assist employee volunteers. Our Surge Capacity Force volunteers are helping with recovery efforts in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as working in a FEMA call center site in Carson City, Nevada, to help provide financial assistance to those affected by the hurricanes and the wildfires in the west. All of these volunteers went through comprehensive training at FEMA’s Anniston, Alabama, site before being deployed. People like:
- Carmen Ballman (revenue agent, LB&I, Waukesha, Wisconsin), who is among more than 50 IRS volunteers helping deliver relief supplies to residents of Puerto Rico,
- Kevin Roy (revenue officer, SB/SE, Raleigh, North Carolina), one of more than 15 IRS volunteers answering calls at the Carson City call site. The site handles more than 69,000 calls each day to assist those affected by the disasters,
- Emil Blevins (revenue officer, SB/SE, Denver, Colorado), who joined more than 35 IRS volunteers helping assess hurricane damage and provide other assistance in Texas communities and
- Tara Swartfager (contact representative, W&I, Andover, Massachusetts), who is among more than 20 IRS volunteers helping to get affected Floridians back on their feet.
In addition, Appeals, CI, C&L, IT, LB&I, PGLD, SB/SE, TAS and W&I have disaster response initiatives separate from the Surge Capacity Force. For example, 10 CI agents worked to locate and assist IRS employees and provide relief supplies to those in Puerto Rico. Under C&L coordination, more than 200 employees from a number of divisions across the IRS volunteered to work in over 50 different FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers covering portions of Texas, Florida and California. More than 2,500 W&I employees volunteered to take FEMA calls at six of our IRS call sites. And OLS’ work on the new IRS.gov website also was timely given the large amount of disaster information and Chief Counsel guidance that’s been posted to help taxpayers.
IRS employee organizations are also helping. The Military Outreach for Service launched a webpage to raise funds for employees and their families, and the Hispanic Internal Revenue Employees organization is also collecting money nationwide. And these are just a few examples.
Across the agency, there are many other business units and individuals working long hours to do much-needed work during this challenging time. And more remains to be done in several of these areas. I’ve often said that IRS employees have a “can-do” spirit. And it shows in the work you do each day and the way you respond when you’re called upon to help.
Again, thank you. I’m proud to work alongside you. --
John A. Koskinen