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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

Calculating Pay

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As 2011 draws to a close, the federal pay freeze and potential cuts to government pensions are still very much on the radar screen. Tracking the news is one thing, figuring out exactly how much money you stand to lose is another. Now, feds can punch their own numbers into a new online calculator to see how a two-year -- and possible three-year -- pay freeze affects their compensation.

The calculator, which the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers created, assesses the cumulative impact over time of salary freezes on federal workers' pay. The IFPTE represents engineers, scientists, technicians and mathematicians, so hopefully the math is accurate. According to the union, a federal employee earning an annual salary of $70,000 will experience up to a $29,000 pay cut over the next decade and will lose $66,000 over 20 years under the two-year pay freeze, which currently expires at the end of 2012. A three-year pay freeze would bump the pay cut to $95,970 over the next two decades. The formula assumes a 2 percent automatic annual pay raise for federal employees, which is about what the boost was before the pay freeze went into effect in January.

"We do not believe that a straight comparison of a worker's salary now under a pay freeze compared to two years from now under a conservative pay raise estimate is a proper measure," the union said in a statement. "Indeed, it is the cumulative impact -- in which the loss experienced by the worker builds over time -- that is the proper metric by which to judge the pay freeze's real impact."

This tool is likely to make blood pressures rise across government.

Feds interested in figuring out how much federal income tax should be withheld from their monthly retirement payment can check out the online calculator at the Office of Personnel Management's site. Of course, this is useful only if you are a federal retiree who is actually receiving your annuity check. As has been reported here and elsewhere, OPM's track record with respect to ensuring timely and accurate retirement payments has not been stellar.

2012 Pay Tables

OPM on Wednesday unveiled the 2012 pay tables for federal employees. No surprises here since federal civilian employees are still subject to a pay freeze next year.

Rent-a-Couch

Feds who are relocating and don't have the resources to outfit their new digs can take advantage of discounts on renting residential furniture and other home décor.

The General Services Administration awarded a contract to CORT, a national company that provides rental furniture. CORT has been on the GSA Schedule since 1996 providing office furniture to the government and military. The rentals are for temporary assignments lasting from 90 days to 18 months for service members on and off base military housing, those displaced post-crisis or deployed as first responders, and for government employees between homes during a permanent relocation.

"Demand for rental assistance services is at an all-time high as housing market conditions have led more than 50 percent of relocating employees to choose to rent, rather than purchase, housing," CORT said in a statement on the new government contract.

 

Kellie Lunney covers federal pay and benefits issues, the budget process and financial management. After starting her career in journalism at Government Executive in 2000, she returned in 2008 after four years at sister publication National Journal writing profiles of influential Washingtonians. In 2006, she received a fellowship at the Ohio State University through the Kiplinger Public Affairs in Journalism program, where she worked on a project that looked at rebuilding affordable housing in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. She has appeared on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, NPR and Feature Story News, where she participated in a weekly radio roundtable on the 2008 presidential campaign. In the late 1990s, she worked at the Housing and Urban Development Department as a career employee. She is a graduate of Colgate University.

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