Apr 28, 2020 - Politics & Policy

IRS calls 10,000 employees back to work, must bring their own masks

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Internal Revenue Service called roughly 10,000 employees back to work this week, but it is requiring that they provide their own facial masks to protect themselves from the coronavirus pandemic.

The state of play: Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee have blasted the plan, issuing a statement saying it's "completely irresponsible and unethical for the IRS to demand those workers obtain their own protective equipment."

  • A memo notes that employees who do not provide their own equipment may be forced to return home.
  • The agency has offered incentive pay to employees who volunteer to return to the agency first. The memo says that workers will be directly ordered to return if they do not volunteer first.

Why it matters: The IRS is currently at the height of its demand season, facing both annual tax returns and the disbursements of the federal government's coronavirus stimulus checks.

Go deeper

As techlash heats up again, here's who's stoking the fire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As controversies around online speech rage against a backdrop of racial tension, presidential provocation and a pandemic, a handful of companies, lawmakers and advocacy groups have continued to promote a backlash against Big Tech.

The big picture: Companies like Facebook and Google got a reputational boost at the start of the coronavirus lockdown, but that respite from criticism proved brief. They're now once again walking a minefield of regulatory investigations, public criticism and legislative threats over antitrust concerns, content moderation and privacy concerns.

Cities are retooling public transit to lure riders back

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

After being told for months to stay away from others, the idea of being shoulder to shoulder again in a bus or subway terrifies many people, requiring sweeping changes to public transit systems for the COVID-19 era.

Why it matters: Cities can't come close to resuming normal economic activity until large numbers of people feel comfortable using public transportation.

The policies that could help fix policing

 Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

George Floyd's death has reignited the long and frustrating push to reform a law enforcement system whose systemic flaws have been visible for years.

Why it matters: Solving these problems will require deep political, structural and cultural changes, experts and advocates say — but they also point to a handful of specific policy changes that, while not a cure, would make a difference.