Washington DC, Feb. 15 2019 - President Trump speaks about a 328 billion USD (290.7 billion euro) spending bill to prevent another government shutdown at the Rose Garden of the White House. Trump also declared a national emergency to attempt to build his long-promised border wall. Democratic lawmakers have already announced they will challenge that declaration. Image: CHRIS KLEPONIS/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

President Trump signed into law today (Friday) a bill to head off another partial government shutdown and provide an average 1.9 percent federal employee raise retroactive to the first full pay period of this year, which started January 6.

That raise would be split for GS employees as 1.4 percent across the board with funds for the remaining 0.5 percentage points divided up as locality pay. That would result in raises ranging from slightly below to slightly above 1.9 percent, varying by locality.


Wage grade employees would receive the same increase applying to GS employees in their area, even though they are under a separate locality system. The raise also will increase the pay cap applying to the SES and other senior level pay systems and a separate cap that limits pay in the higher steps of GS-15 in some localities.

The bill mirrors provisions the Senate passed last year but that were set aside as the host bill, the financial services-general government bill, and six other appropriations bills bogged down, leading to the partial shutdown spanning late December-late January. Because no raise had been enacted by the end of December, Trump had put into effect the salary rate freeze for 2019 that he had favored all of last year. However, the new law overrides that order.

The next immediate steps will be for the White House to issue a new order and for OPM to issue revised pay tables reflecting the raise by GS locality. In addition, there will be new specific locality rates in the Birmingham, Ala., Burlington, Vt., San Antonio, Virginia Beach, Va., Corpus Christi and Omaha areas; those new localities took effect at the start of the year but pay for employees in them had not changed due to the salary rate freeze. The result will be an additional pay boost for affected employees, who previously were in the “rest of the U.S.” locality, which is the lowest-paid.

Exactly when the pay raise will be reflected in pay distributions is not certain. Likely it will take some time—several weeks, possibly—to reprogram payroll systems and have them not only pay higher salaries moving forward but make catch-up payments for two pay cycles and almost all of a third. Those systems already are tied up with issues arising from the back pay to the 800,000 employees

The bill provides funding for the rest of the current fiscal year for nine Cabinet departments and numerous smaller agencies that were subject to the partial shutdown. However, the pay raise language would apply government-wide. Both the House and Senate had voted Thursday to approve the bill.