By bluebay /

Per Diem Rates Won't Change Much Next Year, and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

The General Services Administration last week announced its fiscal 2021 per diem rates for federal employees, which will go into effect October 1.

Most of the rates will remain unchanged from this year. The standard Continental U.S. lodging rate will stay at $96, while 319 locations will receive a maximum lodging allowance higher than the standard rate. GSA has added one new location—Albuquerque, N.M.—to the list of non-standard areas, while the following locations will revert to the standard Continental U.S. rate: Gainesville, Fla.; Atlantic City, N.J.; College Station, Texas; and Abingdon, Va.

In fiscal 2021, the Meal and Incidental Expense per diem rate will remain within the range of $55 to $76.

GSA sets its per diem rates each year based on the average local market costs of mid-priced hotels. The fiscal 2021 rates are based on data collected between March 2019 and February 2020. For a detailed list of lodging per diem rates throughout the United States, visit the GSA website.

Last week, the American Federation of Government Employees urged lawmakers in both chambers to ensure that the compromise version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act includes a number of protections for the federal workforce, as well as a fix to a new benefit for federal employees.

Last year, Congress included a provision in the annual must-pass defense policy bill that would provide federal employees up to 12 weeks of paid leave in connection with the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child, beginning in October. But due to a technical error, the law only guaranteed the benefit to Title 5 employees and Transportation Security Administration screeners.

Although officials leading agencies with sizeable workforces hired outside of Title 5, like the Veterans Affairs Department, have committed to offering the new leave program to all of their employees despite the oversight, language in the House version of the 2021 Defense authorization bill would ensure that the program applies to all federal workers.

AFGE also called on Congress to include a provision that would standardize locality pay areas across both the General Schedule and Federal Wage System pay scales.

The two pay scales currently operate based on two different sets of locality pay areas. Although GS locality pay area maps are updated with new pay areas and include new counties in existing pay areas on a regular basis, AFGE said that the pay areas in the Federal Wage System, which primarily covers blue collar hourly workers, date back to the 1950s. As a result, federal blue collar workers who work side-by-side at a federal facility can make drastically different wages.

Negotiators from the House and Senate are expected to enter conference committee in the coming weeks to iron out the differences between their respective versions of the authorization bill.