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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.
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Shutdown Suspense, Stubborn Retirement Backlog, Details on the Inauguration Day Holiday and More

Uncertainty continues to be a theme for feds as Congress races against a Friday deadline to avoid a government shutdown. Negotiators unveiled a continuing resolution Tuesday evening that would keep government open through April 28. Unfortunately for feds, however, the measure contains some controversial provisions, including a waiver allowing Gen. James Mattis to serve as Defense Department secretary despite retiring from the military relatively recently (in 2013).

The House is expected to vote on the CR Thursday, and the Senate is expected to follow suit on Friday, which is the deadline for avoiding a shutdown. If a senator moves to filibuster the measure, the clock will expire and the government will close.

The good news is that if Congress does approve the CR over objections from Democrats, who weren’t happy with the process for arriving at the stopgap spending measure, then lawmakers have cleared one of the final hurdles for civilian federal employees’ pay raise, set by President Obama at 1.6 percent. Congress can interfere with Obama’s plan at any point before the new year, but the annual spending bill typically provides the best opportunity to do so and Congress did not include any language to that...

Details on 2017 Locality Pay, a Surprise With the Military Raise, and More

Federal employees are facing a lot of uncertainty during the presidential transition. But this week brought clarity to several shorter-term pay issues.

On Tuesday the Obama administration released details on locality pay rates for 2017. California’s Bay Area and the Washington, D.C., region will receive the biggest locality pay boosts next year. Bay Area feds will see their locality rate increase 1.32 percentage points from 35.75 percent in 2016 to 37.07 percent of their base salary for 2017. Those in the D.C. area will receive a 1.26 percent bump in 2017, from 24.78 percent of their base salary this year to 26.04 percent for next year.

The “rest of the U.S.” rate will increase next year to 14.74 percent from 14.35 percent in 2016. Click here for the full list of 2017 locality pay rates. The new rates will go into effect in the first pay period of the new year.

Locality pay is just one piece of the civilian raise. President Obama in August officially recommended an overall 1.6 percent pay boost in 2017 for civilian federal employees, composed of a 1 percent base increase and...

Overtime Pay, Bonuses, Firefighter Benefits and More

The Office of Personnel Management on Monday issued a final rule that would extend health care benefits to part-time federal firefighters. The rule affects thousands of emergency personnel brought on to handle wildfires every year.

President Obama directed the change in 2012.

Agencies will be able to give employees slightly larger bonuses in 2017 after a six-year freeze on performance awards, according to new guidance from the Obama administration. GovExec’s Kellie Lunney has the story here.

Feds eligible for overtime might have noted that on Monday, OPM proposed revisions to regulations associated with the Fair Labor Standards Act to clarify coverage under the law and to ensure that intended overtime protections are fully implemented. Those changes look increasingly unlikely, however, as the Trump administration seeks to roll back many regulations from the Obama era.

As Politico pointed out:

House Republicans are currently in the process of making lists of regulations that fall within their time frame and could potentially be repealed early next year. One of the major ones they’re eyeing is Obama’s overtime rule that requires companies to pay time-and-a-half to employees who make under roughly $47,000. The rule is set to go into effect...

2017 Holidays, Pay and Benefits During Transitions, and More

Amid all the fallout from the divisive presidential campaigns, there is at least one thing lawmakers seem able to agree on: the Secret Service agents who worked overtime to protect the candidates deserve to be fully compensated. Right now, some agents are owed as much as $30,000 to $40,000 in overtime pay they could not collect because that income would have pushed them over a statutory cap that limits their annual salary to that of a General Schedule-15, step 10 employee.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday approved a bill (H.R. 6302) that would provide agents with temporary relief from this pay cap for 2016, freeing up $22 million to allow “almost everyone” at the agency to receive their full pay retroactively, according to sponsor Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.

Meanwhile, the committee is looking at longer term solutions to the problem. The panel held a hearing Tuesday examining how short-staffing contributed to the need for overtime, and Democrats said they would introduce a bill to automatically lift the pay cap every four years during presidential elections.  

Secret Service agents are likely not the only federal employees who are tired after the election. With a...

Pay and Benefits Under Trump, Best Cities for Vets, and More

It’s too soon to tell what effect the 2016 presidential and congressional elections will have on federal pay and benefits. But based on what we’ve heard and seen from President-Elect Donald Trump and many Republican lawmakers so far, we could be in for some changes.

Trump himself hasn’t specifically mentioned any pay or benefits proposals affecting federal employees, but he has talked about a governmentwide hiring freeze and shrinking the workforce through attrition. (Though he also has expressed support for beefing up personnel at the Homeland Security Department.) Vice President-Elect Mike Pence has consistently supported limiting the size of the federal workforce and moving government employees to a pay-for-performance system.

And there’s been no shortage of congressional proposals over the past several years that have targeted federal workers’ pay, bonuses, pensions and job security. Some of them – including increasing the amount new federal employees contribute to their retirement annuity and making it easier to fire career senior executives at the Veterans Affairs Department – have become law. We could see similar ideas emerge, and succeed, more frequently in a Republican-controlled government. We’ll be watching and reporting on it all in the months and years to come...

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