Washington DC, Mar. 4 2019 - President Trump speaks to the National Association of Attorneys General at the White House. Trump signed a pay raise into law in February but has yet to issue the executive order needed to implement it, with workers and their advocates growing impatient.

The wait continues for specifics of the retroactive average 1.9 percent federal employee pay raise signed into law February 15, with some members of Congress now joining individuals and their unions in expressing impatience.

The administration still has not issued an executive order finalizing the raise and containing new pay tables, which likely will show raises ranging from about 1.7 to 2.3 percent among the GS system localities. Those raises are to be retroactive to the start of the first full pay period of the year, January 6. Wage grade employees generally are to receive the same raise paid to GS employees in their localities, while pay caps will rise by 1.9 percent in the SES and other pay systems at that level, and for those in the upper steps of GS-15 in some localities.


If the delay goes on much longer, it’s questionable whether agencies would be able to carry out the new rates so that they would be reflected in the pay distribution for the current pay period, ending March 16. Most employees receive pay for a biweekly period about a week after it closes.

Even less clear is when employees will receive the retroactive portion, which in similar situations in 2003 and 2004 were paid as a lump-sum—either separately or with a regular pay distribution. That involves not only programming new rates into payroll systems but also going back and reconstructing additional pay for employees who earned overtime and various forms of premium pay. The longer it takes to include the raise in regular payouts, the more complex that task becomes for agencies—and therefore the longer it will take.

In those two years, the implementing order and new tables were not issued until more than a month after the law providing for the retroactive raise was signed, in many cases an employee’s raise was not reflected in regular pay until several pay cycles later, and back pay was not squared up for all employees until several months later.