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Uncle Sam: Feds Will Get Back Pay in Next Paycheck

Most government employees who missed pay during shutdown will be made whole by Oct. 25.

Many federal employees will receive the pay they missed during the government shutdown in their next paycheck, an Agriculture Department spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday. Agriculture runs the New Orleans-based National Finance Center, which processes payroll for 650,000 federal workers.

The next payday for most federal workers is Oct. 25, for the pay period ending on Oct. 19. The government shut down on Oct. 1 for 16 days, reopening on Oct. 17. Many federal employees received a paycheck on Friday, Oct. 11, that was smaller than usual because of the government shutdown.

Congress passed legislation late Wednesday to fund the government until Jan. 15, 2014, and suspend the debt ceiling through Feb. 7, 2014. The package also included retroactive pay for furloughed federal employees.

Some employees might end up waiting until after Oct. 25 to be made whole because the timing depends on the specific payroll provider. For example, the most recent pay date for the Internal Revenue Service was Oct. 17; employees typically receive pay through direct deposit a few days earlier than the official pay date, which means IRS workers might have to wait until Oct. 29 or Oct. 30 for their next paycheck with the back wages.

The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents more than 80,000 IRS workers, has asked affected agencies, including IRS, to expedite the back pay. “I know it doesn’t sound like a long time, but it’s a long time if you are waiting for the back pay from Oct. 1 through Oct. 5,” NTEU President Colleen Kelley said. She said the agencies understand the issue, and are looking into how and whether they can fast-track the money. The union represents 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.

Excepted federal employees required to work during the shutdown are guaranteed back pay by statute, although for many workers that pay was delayed. Congress, however, must approve retroactive pay for furloughed federal employees during a lapse in appropriations. During this shutdown, Congress passed the Pay Our Military Act, which President Obama signed into law in early October. That law mandated that all active-duty and reserve members of the armed forces, as well as any civilians and contractors working in support of those forces, be paid on time regardless of the shutdown’s duration.

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service administers payroll to all Defense military and civilian personnel and retirees as well as major Defense contractors. DFAS is also responsible for the payroll of the Executive Office of the President; the Environmental Protection Agency; the Energy, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs departments; and the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

DFAS on Oct. 8 posted shutdown-related pay and leave guidance for employees on its website. Defense employees who remained on the job during the shutdown, i.e. those excepted from furlough, would have received their pay on time because of the Pay Our Military Act. Most furloughed Defense civilian employees returned to work on Oct. 7 when Secretary Chuck Hagel used the law’s flexibility to recall them.

Those employees whose payroll provider is DFAS and are waiting for retroactive pay should receive the money in their next paycheck, but DFAS spokesman Tom LaRock did not immediately respond to a request for information.

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