Fedweek

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Congress is moving toward enacting yet another short-term extension of agency funding as it continues to work to finalize agency budgets for the fiscal year that is now more than four months old.

The measure (HR-6617) which the House has passed and sent to the Senate would head off the threat of a funding lapse when the current temporary funding bill expires February 18; it would continue spending authority through March 11. Like the expiring stopgap—and the one before it that covered October-early December—the measure generally would continue spending at fiscal 2021 levels with some add-ons.

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Under longstanding policies, if the government comes within a week of a funding lapse—as it still may—agencies are to dust off their “contingency” plans which require some employees to work temporarily without pay in a partial shutdown while others would be furloughed without pay. Both groups would be assured of receiving back pay, however.

The government hasn’t had a partial shutdown since the one that turned out to be record-setting in length over late 2018-early 2019, although a number of threats since then have gone down to nearly the last moment before being resolved.

Extending temporary spending authority until March 11 will result in an outcome that leaders had hoped to avoid, by overlapping the start of the next budget cycle. OMB has projected that the administration will release its fiscal 2023 budget proposal March 1, again starting the annual process of making policy and funding decisions including some directly affecting the federal workforce.

One of those is to recommend a raise for the next January; indications are that the administration will propose the 4.6 percent average figure that was indicated last fall by a measure used under federal pay law. Part of a raise averaging that size likely would be broken off as locality pay, resulting in raises in some areas around or above 5 percent. Employee organizations and some Democrats in Congress are advocating an average 5.1 percent.

That budget proposal also likely will flesh out some of the administration’s workforce management priorities under the President’s Management Agenda and other initiatives.

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