With the focus of the White House and Congress having been almost solely on the Coronavirus pandemic for more than two months, the annual process for deciding on federal workforce issues including the following year’s raise is well behind schedule.
That process began as usual in early February with White House budget proposals, which this year called for a 1 percent January 2021 across the board raise with no locality component and a series of often-proposed benefit changes. Those include raising required retirement contributions by FERS employees, basing future annuities on a high-5 salary figure rather than the current high-3, reducing the value of retirement COLAs and more.
Federal employee organizations and Democratic leaders on civil service issues in Congress opposed the policy changes and proposed a 3.5 percent raise, which likely would have a locality component if accepted.
However, the process has not advanced from there. By this point the House or Senate or both typically have produced a budgetary outline, have held hearings on planned spending for many individual agencies, and have started writing the dozen annual appropriations bills for the new fiscal year beginning October 1.
Also by this point the outlines typically have become clear for another important annual measure, the DoD authorization, which commonly carries government-wide personnel policies as well as policies specific to the civilian workforce there.
None of that has happened, although the House recently cleared a path for restarting the regular legislative process by adopting new rules allowing for members to conduct more of their work remotely. However, given the late start there already is a general expectation of Congress achieving little more before October 1 than enacting temporary funding, leaving the appropriations bills to be decided after the November elections.
Prospects for earlier enactment of the DoD bill could be better since that measure is a priority for both parties. Leaders have said they plan and expect to pass that bill as has been done for some 50 years in a row, although they too have not announced a firm schedule and have given no indication of what federal employee-specific provisions might be included.