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Lawmakers Push for Increases in Feds’ Leave, Retirement Benefits

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

At the start of a new session of Congress, lawmakers often introduce—and reintroduce—a flurry of bills related to federal employees’ pay and benefits, and this year has been no exception.

Last month, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, reintroduced their annual pay raise legislation. In this year’s iteration of the bill, federal employees would receive a 2.2% across-the-board pay raise, along with an average 1% increase in locality pay.

And last week, House Democrats renewed their push to expand paid family and medical leave benefits to all federal workers. Under the Comprehensive Paid Leave for Federal Employees Act, all federal employees would receive a maximum of 12 weeks of paid leave each year to deal with a personal illness, to care for a family member suffering from an illness, or in connection with a family member going on or returning from active military duty.

The legislation builds on the 12 weeks of paid leave provided to feds following the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child, which was enacted as part of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act and went into effect last October. That legislation originally also included family leave as laid out in this year’s bill, but it was scaled back following resistance from Senate Republicans.

Additionally, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in both the House and Senate is pushing to pass a bill that would allow federal first responders injured in the line of duty to retain access to their accelerated retirement programs even after they are forced to transfer to another job in the federal government.

Currently, federal firefighters, law enforcement officials and other first responders pay an additional amount into their federal defined benefit retirement program each paycheck, to make up for the fact that they may retire after they have served 20 years and are 50 years old, and they are required to retire by age 57. But if they suffer an injury while on duty that requires them to transfer to a different position in the federal government, they lose access to that retirement system, which is colloquially known as “6c.”

The First Responder Fair RETIRE Act, introduced by Connolly and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., in the House and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., in the Senate, would ensure that first responders who are forced to transfer to a position covered by the traditional federal retirement system due to an on-duty injury would retain access to their first responder retirement benefits and contributions. Additionally, if injured first responders leave the federal service before becoming eligible for an annuity, they would be entitled to a refund on their accelerated contributions.

Although these bills have often sputtered in recent years, proponents of the legislation are hopeful they will have more success with Democrats in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.

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