Fedweek

fedweek.com: So it Begins: Annual Debate over Raise, Other Workforce Issues Image: Lissandra Melo/Shutterstock.com

UPDATED: The Senate has joined the House in passing a temporary funding bill for federal agencies but another major bill pending on its schedule, a wide-ranging bill on the Postal Service, continues to await final action.

Action on the budget was needed since funding authority for federal agencies otherwise would have expired Friday (February 18) and triggered the type of partial government shutdown that Congress has been able to avoid—despite coming close several times even before this—for more than two years. The House last week passed that bill (HR-6617) to again temporarily extend funding, this time through March 11.

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Senate leaders had hoped to bring the measure to a vote early in the week but Republicans used their leverage to force votes on several policy amendments. One of them would have banned government spending to enforce any Coronavirus vaccine mandates including the one for federal employees, which has been stopped by a court order that is under appeals. Each of those was defeated before the bill was approved.

Leaders have expressed optimism that a final agreement on funding the government through the remainder of the current fiscal year, ending September 30, can be reached ahead of that new deadline.

The Senate also had hoped for a quick vote this week on a bill (HR-3076) approved in the House last week aiming to put the Postal Service on firmer financial ground. However, technical issues delayed it at first and then time ran short as the Senate worked on the budget measure and a number of nominations.

Two of the key provisions of that bill involve health insurance benefits. One would relieve the USPS of an obligation in place since 2006 to pre-fund future costs of those benefits for its retirees and the other would create a Postal Service Health Benefits Program.

The latter essentially would be a plan within a plan in the FEHB, with coverage terms paralleling FEHB offerings but with a separate premium pool and with future retirees required to enroll in Medicare parts B (physician and related services) and D (prescription drug benefits) when they are eligible, typically at age 65. The bill projects that the new program will not be in place until 2025 plan year, however.

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See also,

Benefits Upon Passing of a Federal Employee or Retiree

The Federal Retirement Deal (It’s Good)

Annual Leave, One of Top Benefits to Federal Employees

2022 Federal Employees Handbook