Pay & Benefits

New bill aims for a higher 2021 federal pay raise

The White House has yet to release its budget proposal for 2021, but some members of Congress are already gearing up to push for an even larger pay raise for federal employees in 2021 than they received for 2020.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., introduced the Federal Adjustment of Income Rates Act Jan. 29 in the Senate and House, respectively, which would boost federal basic pay by 3.5 percent next year, an even larger bump than the record setting increase of 2020.

“We fought hard for several consequential victories last year, but our work on behalf of our dedicated federal workforce is never finished,” said Connolly in a news release.

“After years of pay freezes, furloughs and Trump shutdowns, federal employees understand better than most that we simply cannot let our guard down while this president is in the White House. The FAIR Act is much-needed, and well-deserved, recognition of our government’s greatest asset — its public servants.”

Unlike the 3.1 percent increase that was passed for 2020, which was made up of increases to both base pay and locality pay, the FAIR Act targets only base pay. That strategy could increase the chances of the bill’s passage, as President Donald Trump has previously expressed distaste for ramping up locality pay to its suggested levels.

“Whether they manage fisheries for NOAA or care for our veterans at VA hospitals, federal workers in every part of this country and around the world protect and serve the American people,” said Schatz in a news release.

“This legislation allows us to right the wrongs from furloughs, sequestration and pay freezes by giving these hardworking public servants the raise they deserve.”

Advocates for federal pay raises have argued that repeated freezes during economically challenging years and reductions to federal benefits necessitate more aggressive raises to catch up with the private sector.

“This legislation will not only help restore living standards of federal employees to pre-recession levels, but it will also assist in the recruitment and retention of a high-quality federal workforce,” said American Federation of Government Employees National Secretary-Treasurer Everett Kelley in a statement.

The bill currently has sponsorship from exclusively Democratic members of the House.

“Our members will be fully engaged in the effort to pass this bill into law and give federal employees the ability to keep doing what they love: serving the public,” National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon said in a news release.

“Federal employees are honored to have in their corner Sen. Schatz, Rep. Connolly and all of the cosponsors of the FAIR Act, who understand that a modest pay raise would go a long way toward recruiting and retaining highly skilled professionals in the federal workforce.”

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