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A Rollback of Military Financial Protections, a Per Diem Increase for Feds, and More

A weekly round-up of pay and benefits news.

The White House reportedly soon will propose to roll back enforcement of a law intended to protect members of the military from predatory loans.

According to NPR, the Trump administration recently sent documents to the Defense Department outlining a proposal to change rules that effectively block auto lenders from tacking products like overpriced gap insurance—a policy that protects vehicles’ value after they leave a dealer lot—onto a car loan.

Acting Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Mick Mulvaney is also working on changes to weaken overall enforcement of the Military Lending Act. Mulvaney’s plan would cease CFPB’s proactive monitoring of payday lenders to ensure companies do not violate the law.

In a statement to NPR, the Defense Department described the auto loan plan as merely a proposal, and said changes would only be implemented “if necessary” and in a way that “does not reduce MLA protections.”

Center for Responsible Lending Federal Advocacy Director Scott Astrada blasted the proposals to reduce service members’ protections under the Military Lending Act.

“Auto dealers should not be allowed to rip off military servicemembers with exorbitantly priced add-on insurance,” Astrada said in a statement. “The Military Lending Act, which passed with broad bipartisan support, was enacted to prevent our troops from being taken for a ride by financial scam artists. It must not be weakened.”

Meanwhile, the Office of Personnel Management last week spelled out the implications of President Trump’s May renewal of a national emergency in Iraq for civilian federal employees. In guidance to agencies, OPM Director Jeff Pon wrote that the renewal means that agency heads may continue to apply for a waiver for premium pay caps for their employees working in Iraq until the end of 2018.

Those pay cap waivers were authorized in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, and also may apply to civilian federal workers who are in Iraq to support an American contingency operation—Operation Inherent Resolve.

Although Pon noted last week that the pay cap waiver only runs through Dec. 31, the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill that President Trump signed on Monday extends that provision. That means the waiver will remain in effect until May 22, 2019. At that point, Trump could extend the national emergency declaration once again.

On Tuesday, the General Services Administration announced the new fiscal 2019 per diem rates for federal employees traveling for work, which will take effect Oct. 1.

On that date, standard per diem rates for traveling federal employees will be $94 for lodging and $55 for meals and other incidental expenses. That’s an increase of $1 for lodging and $4 for meals over the current rates.

In addition to the standard rate, GSA has increased reimbursements, based on data from the hotel industry, for different regions and times of year. The agency has provided a Web page to look up per diem rates throughout the year based on city and state, or by ZIP code.