Issuance of the order and the pay tables on Thursday, six weeks after the raise was signed into law, ends a process that started more than a year ago with Trump’s initial recommendation to give no raise in 2019 for 2.1 million federal employees. Because Congress did not pass a raise figure before the end of last year, the freeze took effect in January, only to be overridden by a budget measure Trump signed Feb. 15 providing for an average 1.9 percent raise.
In the weeks following, federal employees had been waiting with mounting impatience for the order needed to formally set new pay rates for future paychecks and to provide for back pay retroactive to the start of the first full pay period of the year, which was Jan. 6.
“Some good news for federal workers! After far too long of a delay, the modest cost of living increase that we secured for our civil servants as part of the government funding package is officially in place,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said in a tweet.
Part of the 1.9 percent was designated to be divided among the locality zones according to pay comparison data from an advisory council, resulting in variations. Following Washington-Baltimore, the largest raises are to be paid in the San Francisco, Seattle and San Diego areas. The smallest, 1.66 percent, is to be paid in areas without a separate city rate, called the “rest of the U.S.” locality. Blue-collar employees are to receive raises up to 2.06 percent.
Those new rates now will have to be plugged into the payroll providers that agencies use, which further will have to recompute pay that employees already have received to add the retroactive boost.
That process could take weeks, but “Employees are not entitled to interest on any payments received as a result of processing the retroactive adjustments in pay,” according to the Office of Personnel Management.
Most federal employees in pay systems above the General Schedule are under performance-pay systems and receive varying raises up to a pay cap, in most cases now $192,300. A separate pay cap, now $166,500, limits pay of the highest-ranking General Schedule employees in some of the localities.
The rates payable to political appointees, who are paid under a separate system called the Executive Schedule, are increasing for the first time since 2010, by 1.9 percent. The amount paid for a cabinet secretary for example is rising to $203,500.
The raise does not affect U.S. Postal Service employees, whose pay is determined in bargaining, nor federal retirees, most of whom received an inflation adjustment of 2.8 percent in January.
Military personnel received a 2.6 percent raise in January and would be due for a 3.1 percent raise in January 2020 under the most recent White House budget proposal — which once again calls for a freeze on federal employee pay rates. Federal employee unions and some members of Congress meanwhile are seeking a 3.6 percent federal employee raise for next January.