2017 Holidays, Pay and Benefits During Transitions, and More
A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.
Amid all the fallout from the divisive presidential campaigns, there is at least one thing lawmakers seem able to agree on: the Secret Service agents who worked overtime to protect the candidates deserve to be fully compensated. Right now, some agents are owed as much as $30,000 to $40,000 in overtime pay they could not collect because that income would have pushed them over a statutory cap that limits their annual salary to that of a General Schedule-15, step 10 employee.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday approved a bill (H.R. 6302) that would provide agents with temporary relief from this pay cap for 2016, freeing up $22 million to allow “almost everyone” at the agency to receive their full pay retroactively, according to sponsor Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.
Meanwhile, the committee is looking at longer term solutions to the problem. The panel held a hearing Tuesday examining how short-staffing contributed to the need for overtime, and Democrats said they would introduce a bill to automatically lift the pay cap every four years during presidential elections.
Secret Service agents are likely not the only federal employees who are tired after the election. With a paperwork snafu resolved and the transition to the Trump administration under way, career federal employees will likely have a lot of work ahead to explain the day-to-day operations of government to incoming political appointees.
Those who need something to look forward to may want to check out the Office of Personnel Management’s 2017 holiday schedule. Of particular note, most federal employees in the Washington, D.C., area will have a day off on Friday, Jan. 20, for Donald Trump’s inauguration. There will be no “in lieu of” holiday for those who were not regularly scheduled to work that day, however, OPM said.
OPM also has published a Presidential Transition Guide to Federal Human Resources Management Matters that may help alleviate any anxiety over what happens to pay and benefits during transitions. The guide has information for both career employees who need to educate incoming appointees on pay systems, and for Obama administration appointees who are leaving government and would like to know what happens with such benefits as unused annual and sick leave, upon separation.
As federal employees focus on the transition, Congress has several pieces of important unfinished business. At the top of the list is figuring out how to keep government open past Dec. 9, when a stopgap funding measure runs out. The path forward on funding is unclear. Prior to the election, lawmakers had discussed the possibility of a “minibus,” which would provide full-year funding for certain, but not all, agencies. Democrats deplored that strategy, saying they would only accept minibuses if they collectively added up to an omnibus to fund all of government through fiscal 2017. President Obama in September signed a law to appropriate full-year spending for military construction and the Veterans Affairs Department.
However lawmakers decide to proceed, the odds of a shutdown have been called low. Trump’s unexpected victory could still reinvigorate a fight between Democrats, who want a full-year measure, and Republicans, who could look to empower the next administration as much as possible.
Despite all the uncertainty surrounding funding and the transition, federal employees seem to be feeling generous. The capital area branch of the government’s annual charity drive said Wednesday that donations are outpacing last year by 17 percent so far. The Combined Federal Campaign of the National Capital Area announced it has brought in $13.7 million in pledges so far for 2016, toward a goal of $47 million.
“We are on track to meet or exceed our fundraising goal as of today,” said Vince Micone, chairperson of the Local Federal Coordinating Committee that oversees the CFCNCA, in a statement. “This progress is a testament to the generosity of the men and women working for the federal government, and also represents the hard work and dedication of campaign workers who inspire each of us to Show Some Love to the causes that mean the most to us.”
CLARIFICATION: This article has been updated to clarify that inauguration day is a holiday for federal employees in the Washington, D.C., area. Those in other parts of the country will work on Jan. 20.