Travel Mileage Reimbursement Rates Fall, and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

The General Services Administration last week announced the reimbursement rates for federal employee travel for 2021, which fell for the second straight year for cars.

The reimbursement rate for feds driving privately owned vehicles for official travel is $0.56 per mile this year, a decrease from $0.575 per mile in 2020. In 2019, the reimbursement rate was $0.58 per mile.

The federal government will reimburse federal workers traveling by plane at a rate of $1.26 per mile, down from $1.27 per mile last year. The reimbursement rate was $1.26 per mile in 2019 as well.

If a federal worker travels via personal automobile when a government vehicle has been authorized, they will be reimbursed $0.16 per mile in 2021, a decrease from the $0.17 per mile last year and $0.20 per mile in 2019. Feds traveling by motorcycle will be reimbursed at a rate of $0.54 per mile, compared with $0.545 per mile last year and $0.55 in 2019.

On Tuesday, the Office of Personnel Management issued guidance to agencies on how to implement a provision of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act allowing federal employees to carry over up to 25% of additional unused annual leave over the typical cap on time off that transfers from one year to another.

For most federal employees, who typically can carry over 240 hours of unused leave from one year to the next, in 2021 they will carry over a maximum of 300 hours. Feds working overseas can carry over upwards of 450 hours, compared to the typical 360 hours. And senior executives, who are exempt from the provision, will continue to carry over the normal cap of 720 hours.

The provision applies to the vast majority of federal employees, including medical professionals at the Veterans Affairs Department and employees at the U.S. Postal Service, Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration. But senior executives are exempt, as well as employees whose salaries are paid via nonappropriated funds.

Under the NDAA provision, leave above the traditional cap that carries over must be used this year, or it is forfeit. And if an employee leaves the federal service, the extra leave will not be included as part of lump sum payments for unused leave.

There are exceptions, however. If an agency determines that an employee has been unable to use his or her leave due to their work on COVID-19 response efforts, it can restore all of that employee’s unused leave from 2020. And in that scenario, the employee would have at least two years to use that leave before it expires. If the employee leaves the federal service, it would be included in any lump sum payments.