Question: I read that President Trump wants to give federal employees a 1.9 percent COLA. I also read that the COLA number won’t be decided until the fall. What gives?

Answer: President Trump’s recent budget proposal recommends a 1.9 percent raise for federal employees in January 2018. Note the word “raise.” Current employees get pay raises. Retirees get COLAs, or cost of living adjustment.

Although the federal employee pay raise often is called a COLA, it is not determined by inflation but rather is linked—if only loosely—to salary growth in the private sector.

Under the complex law for setting raises, Trump’s recommendation will take effect unless Congress sets a different figure. It could do that at any time until the end of this year.

Typically, the raise number becomes just an average, as slightly larger raises are paid in some city areas including the Washington-Baltimore area.

Retiree COLAs are linked to an inflation index, the same one used to increase Social Security and certain other government benefits.

That count now stands at about 1.5 percent. The final figure will be set in October and the COLA will be paid automatically in January—again, unless Congress changes it.