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Tech help offered for House staffers facing potential coronavirus telework

Computer and network help available in Rayburn cafeteria

The House Chief Administrative Officer has announced the launch of the House Telework Readiness Center and other steps the office is taking to prepare for potential operational changes on Capitol Hill amid the growing coronavirus epidemic.

“The CAO continues to function with normal operations,” reads the email sent Tuesday evening to House employees, signed by CAO Phil Kiko and obtained by CQ Roll Call. “We will evaluate our operating status on a regular basis and will provide updates.”

[Congress ‘struggling’ with questions of office logistics, travel and hygiene]

The House Telework Readiness Center will be staffed by experts from House Information Resources and exists to provide staffers with the technical assistance necessary to prepare to work remotely. The help desk service will operate out of the Rayburn cafeteria seating area from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

“To support this effort, the CAO has ordered 1,500 laptop computers to help meet Member office telework needs,” Kiko wrote.

That is 500 more laptops than what Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, announced in an email to GOP staff late last week.

In the past few days, House offices were given the authority to use their remaining 2019 Member Representational Allowance funds to bring office equipment and technology up to standards for employees to telework amid the coronavirus epidemic.

Florida Democratic Rep. Donna E. Shalala said her office is buying laptops with last year’s money to prepare for the possibility of working from home.

Davis urged House offices Tuesday morning to square away their technology needs and to prepare a continuity-of-operations plan.

“That’s why the equipment purchases are necessary right now. Be ready. Be prepared. We don’t want anybody to shut down their ability to serve their constituents in their offices here in D.C., or be it in the district. Plan now. Have that plan in place,” Davis said.

[Staffer email warns against false rumors of coronavirus infections on Capitol Hill]

The CAO has also set up a Readiness Operations Center in Longworth B227 that brings together representatives from all the CAO business units to coordinate internal planning and response to the spread of the coronavirus.

Kiko encouraged House employees to keep up with the latest operational status and developments and to look out for further communication from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the House Administration panel and the Office of Attending Physician.

Chris Marquette contributed to this report.

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