White House Now Supports 2021 Pay Freeze, but Only for Civilians
The announcement marks a reversal for the Trump administration, which previously proposed a 1% across-the-board pay increase for all federal employees.
The Trump administration released a statement this week saying that it now supports Senate Republicans’ proposal to freeze civilian federal employees’ pay next year, further complicating ongoing negotiations over federal compensation in 2021.
In a letter, dated Nov. 30, to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought confirmed the White House’s support for a pay freeze for civilian feds as proposed in the Senate’s omnibus spending bill, which was unveiled last month.
“In the context of budgetary constraints and recent, pandemic-related impacts on non-federal labor markets, the administration supports the policy in the bill to maintain for 2021 the current level of federal civilian pay,” Vought wrote.
The move marks a reversal for the administration, which had previously proposed a 1% across-the-board pay increase for federal workers as part of its fiscal 2021 budget plan. Under that proposal, locality pay for civilian feds would remain at 2020 levels.
Over the summer, the House passed appropriations legislation that was silent on the prospect of a pay raise for federal employees, essentially endorsing the White House’s original plan. But a group of lawmakers in that chamber has continued to push for a greater pay increase, particularly in light of the fact that the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act is slated to include a 3% pay raise for members of the military.
“The administration appreciates the [appropriations] committee’s support for the 3.0% military pay raise as requested in the fiscal 2021 budget,” Vought wrote.
In a statement late Tuesday evening, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association National President Ken Thomas blasted the pay freeze proposal.
“In a year when federal employees have stepped up to respond to a global pandemic, with tens of thousands on the frontlines working on behalf of the American people and contracting COVID-19 in the process, a 1% pay increase was the least our nation could do to honor the commitment of feds,” Thomas said. “But now, the White House has come out in support of a proposal . . . which would freeze federal pay at 2020 levels, while at the same time, the administration affirmed its support for a 3% pay increase for military members. This disparity devalues the contributions of civil servants, who tirelessly and expertly meet the needs of not only our military, but also of our nation as it struggles through this historic crisis and attendant rocky economic conditions.”
If enacted, a pay freeze next year would effectively serve as a pay cut for many federal employees, in light of the fact that the Office of Personnel Management has announced that feds will pay an average of 4.9% more toward their insurance premiums in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
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