Jacoblund / istock

A New Addition to Locality Pay Areas, and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

The Biden administration announced last week that it has approved a recommendation to add one jurisdiction to its list of locality pay areas.

The president’s pay agent, which is made up of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, acting Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja, issued its annual report last week weighing in on locality pay and recommendations from the advisory Federal Salary Council.

Last year, the salary council, whose members comprise a mix of presidential appointees and representatives from federal employee organizations, recommended that no changes be made to the map of locality pay areas except one: Carroll County, Ill., should be added to the Davenport, Iowa, locality pay area. Although the county did not meet the requirement that a jurisdiction have at least 2,500 General Schedule employees to become part of a locality pay area, it would meet that criterion if vacant positions were included in the count.

The president’s pay agent said last week that although it disagreed with the idea of granting a waiver of the employment requirement—the agent preferred changing the criteria following further study rather than issuing case-by-case waivers—it would agree with the recommendations, because the county recently has met the 2,500 employee threshold.

“While we understand the point that an area’s GS employment could be below the GS employment threshold due to vacancies, we do not know how many similarly situated locations there may be, or if agencies actually intend to fill vacant positions,” the report states. “It has been the practice in the locality pay program to apply criteria consistently for all locations in the country. The [Federal Salary] Council can revisit the January 2021 council recommendation regarding Carroll County through further analysis of the potential impact of including vacant positions in addition to encumbered positions to meet the established GS employment threshold.”

Federal employees in Carroll County, Ill., will not see their pay rise immediately, however. The pay agent’s decision is only the start of the process for adding the county to the Davenport, Iowa, locality pay area. The Office of Personnel Management must issue regulations in order to implement the change, likely sometime next year.

Outside Groups Pitch In to Pay Federal Interns

The Partnership for Public Service last week announced that it will administer a new program to boost paid internships at federal agencies, in an effort to supplement the federal government’s own push to expand the use of federal internships and make sure the opportunities are paid.

Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic group, will finance the program, which will begin with 400 interns for the departments of Commerce and Transportation in the summers of 2022 and 2023, and will pay a $4,000 stipend over 10 to 12 weeks.

Most federal agencies have lagged far behind private sector employers in the employment and efficacy of internship programs. Many internship programs are both underutilized and fail to convert successful interns into full time  employees.

The new program comes at a time when the Biden administration is working to ensure internships attract a new generation of federal workers and to make those opportunities paid. Research shows that paid internships attract a more diverse corps of interns, since unpaid internships can often only be taken by wealthy students.

“Our government needs new skills, perspectives and innovative approaches to confront our country's challenges, but it is struggling to recruit young talent,” said Max Stier, the Partnership’s president and CEO. “It is essential that we encourage a broader interest in public service careers, harness the immense potential of a new generation to serve their country and facilitate the growth and learning of these individuals.”