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                                                                                                    April 10, 2020

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

(P.L. 116-136): Selected Provisions on Federal Hiring

In response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19),
Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and
Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted as P.L. 116-136
on March 27, 2020. The law establishes new hiring
authorities for several federal executive branch departments
and agencies: the Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD), the Securities and Exchange
Commission (SEC), the Commodity Futures Trading
Commission (CFTC), the Department of Commerce, and
the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The
law also authorizes a Special Inspector General and a
Congressional Oversight Commission and provides
authorities for establishing those entities with needed
personnel. For information on federal pay flexibilities, see
CRS In Focus IF1 1489, Federal Executive Agencies:
Selected Pay Flexibilities for COVID- 19 Response.

Division A, Title IV, Subtitle A, Section 4010 of the law
authorizes the Secretary of HUD, the SEC, and the CFTC to
recruit and appoint candidates directly to selected positions
without regard to existing veterans' preference
requirements, standards for rating and ranking applicants,
and rule of three (selection from highest three eligible
candidates) procedures codified at 5 U.S.C. 3309 through
3318. This new hiring authority may be used to fill
temporary and term appointments when a determination is
made that the expedited procedures are necessary and
appropriate to enable the agencies to prevent, prepare for,
or respond to COVID-19. The authority became effective
on the act's enactment date and will end on either the
termination date of the national emergency concerning
COVID-19 or December 31, 2020, whichever is sooner.

The authority provided by Section 4010 is a direct-hire
authority that expedites hiring. Using direct-hire, an agency
may hire any qualified applicant without regard to 5 U.S.C.
3309 through 3318. Public notice must be given for
positions an agency seeks to fill. U.S. Office of Personnel
Management (OPM) regulations that are prescribed at Part
337, Subpart B of Title 5 of the Code ofFederal
Regulations (C.F.R.) provide the requirements related to
direct-hire. For additional information on these
requirements, see CRS In Focus IF 11468, Federal
Executive Agencies: Hiring Flexibilities for Emergency

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Division B, Title II of P.L. 116-136 authorizes the Secretary
of Commerce to appoint such temporary personnel as may
be necessary to implement specified requirements of the
law to positions in the Economic Development

Administration after serving continuously for two years.
The individuals are to be appointed in the same manner that
competitive service employees with competitive status are
considered for transfer, reassignment, or promotion to such
positions. They would become career-conditional
employees unless the requirements for career tenure have
already been completed.

Competitive status provides an individual with basic
eligibility for noncompetitive assignment to a competitive
position in the Civil Service. It is acquired by a career or
career-conditional employee upon satisfactory completion
of a probationary period.

Division B, Title VIII, Section 18108 of the law authorizes
the Secretary of HHS to use appropriated funds to appoint
candidates directly to positions performing critical work
related to COVID-19 without regard to existing veterans'
preference requirements, standards for rating and ranking
applicants, rule of three procedures, and category rating
procedures codified at 5 U.S.C. 3309 through 3319.
Category rating allows an appointing official to select any
applicant in the highest quality category or, if fewer than
three candidates have been assigned to the highest quality
category, in a merged category consisting of the highest and
the second highest quality categories. Public notice of the
positions the department seeks to fill must be given to use
this direct hire authority. The Secretary must also have
determined that a public health threat exists.

Section 302 of P.L. 116-123, the Coronavirus Preparedness
and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, as
enacted on March 6, 2020, provides a similar authority to
the HHS Secretary.

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Division A, Title IV, Subtitle A, Section 4018 of P.L. 116-
136 establishes a new Office of the Special Inspector
General (IG) for Pandemic Recovery. The IG is authorized
to select, appoint, and employ such officers and employees
as may be necessary to carry out the IG's duties under
existing 5 U.S.C. procedures for competitive service
appointments, position classification (5 U.S.C. Chapter 51)
and General Schedule (GS) pay (5 U.S.C. Chapter 53,
Subchapter III). The competitive service appointment
process may consist of a written test, an evaluation of an
individual's education and experience, and an evaluation of
other attributes necessary for successful performance of a
position. In addition, the IG may obtain the services of
experts and consultants, in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 3109,

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