Pay raise for feds likely included in funding bill
- By Chase Gunter
- Feb 13, 2019
A long-sought pay raise for federal civilian workers appears to be packaged in appropriations bills to keep the government fully open for the rest of the fiscal year.
A 1.9 percent pay raise was included in the Senate funding bill that covered Treasury and general government operations in the last Congress, although at the time Republicans declined to sign on. Now the measure appears to be headed for inclusion in the final bill.
In public comments, President Donald Trump has indicated that he's inclined to sign a compromise bill and look for additional funding for his border security priorities administratively.
Back pay for contractors furloughed during the 35-day shutdown had also been proposed as part of the funding bill, but Wednesday-night press reports said that provision was dropped from the final conference report.
According to Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a Congressional Budget Office estimated that it would cost $1 billion to deliver back pay to contractors. The provision had put an emphasis on contractors with earnings under $50,000 per year.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) made a plea for contractor pay on the Senate floor on Feb. 13, but Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told reporters on Capitol Hill Feb. 13 that Trump "won't sign" a bill that includes such a provision.
Shutdown payroll problems
Three weeks after the shutdown, and days before the current continuing resolution is set to expire, federal employees have continued to get incomplete, delayed and inaccurate paychecks — and others remain unpaid, according to president of the American Federation of Employees J. David Cox.
In a letter, Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) asked the heads of the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management for answers.
The lawmakers cited reports of "shorted pay and inconsistent tax deductions that left workers unable to make mortgage or rent payments," as well as paychecks that didn't reflect various adjustments "which have resulted in confusion and additional burdens on federal workers."
Shortly after Congress temporarily reopened government, acting OPM director Margaret Weichert warned federal employees that there could be some issues with back pay as agencies worked to process paychecks quickly.
While the lawmakers commended OPM for urging agencies to issue backpay promptly, they raised concerns about the guidance, namely the direction of payroll providers to "make some simplifying assumptions." Specifically, the lawmakers want a progress report on where each agency affected by the shutdown stands in terms of getting accurate back pay to its employees.
They asked how many federal workers were furloughed in the shutdown, how many worked without pay, and how many are still owed back pay. They also asked about the administration’s plans to make sure backpay is processed accurately as soon as possible, and what information agencies have shared with employees to make sure their tax deductions are accurate.
The legislators want to know what options feds have for paying wage garnishments after the fact, and what information have agencies provided in this regard.
They requested a response by Feb. 26.
Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.
Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.
Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.
Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter