Question: What’s been happening with the proposal to increase the amount for buyout payments?

Answer: Not much, but there’s still a chance Congress will agree to it.

Federal agencies can offer buyouts, also called voluntary separation incentive payments, when cutting staff or reorganizing. Employees who accept the payments must resign (or retire, if eligible), and the agency abolishes the position or reshuffles jobs to save money.

The general maximum buyout payment has been $25,000 since the 1990s, although the Defense Department can pay up to $40,000. The Pentagon asked Congress for, and got, that boost last year, arguing that $25,000 is no longer a strong enough incentive — especially because the payments are taxable and recipients must repay the full amount if they return to the government within five years.

Months ago, the Trump administration proposed extending the higher amount governmentwide for the same reason, but Congress has not actively considered the idea. The administration repeated that request late last week, essentially asking the Senate to add the higher number to a defense bill now up for vote.

Even if Congress allows the higher amount, it still would be up to agencies to decide whether to make offers and for which positions.