A Juneteenth rally at the Brooklyn Museum, Friday, June 19, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York.

A Juneteenth rally at the Brooklyn Museum, Friday, June 19, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. AP file photo

Juneteenth Will Be a New Holiday for Feds, Although It’s Unclear When

The holiday would typically be observed Friday, but a lack of lead time to implement a newly passed bill could delay when federal workers see a new day off.

Congress this week moved to formally recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday, sending the bill on Wednesday evening to President Biden for enactment. But with such short lead time between when Biden may sign the bill until the holiday actually arrives, federal employees may not receive a paid day off marking the occasion until next year.

Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19 and commemorates the arrival of Union troops in Galveston, Texas, following the end of the Civil War, marking the effective end of slavery in the United States more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The holiday is already recognized by 47 states and the District of Columbia.

The Senate passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act (S. 475) on Tuesday by unanimous consent, and the House voted 415-14 on Wednesday to send the bill to Biden’s desk. The bill simply adds Juneteenth to the list of “legal public holidays,” and lacks any language stating when it must take effect.

This year, June 19 is on Saturday, meaning that ordinarily, federal employees would receive Friday as a day off to observe the holiday. But it is unclear whether the Office of Personnel Management could implement it into federal agencies’ calendars in time, meaning federal employees could receive Friday off, or it could fall back to a later date. And they may have to wait until next year to see a change to their holiday calendars.

Much may depend on when Biden actually signs the bill. He was on Air Force One, flying home from his trip to Europe, as of the legislation’s passage in the House, and was not expected to land until around 11 p.m.

OPM declined to comment for this story.