Travel expenses could be a little lighter for feds in fiscal 2020

The next fiscal year is just around the corner and federal employees traveling on official business may have a little more wiggle room starting Oct. 1. The General Service Administration released its fiscal 2020 per diem rates on Aug. 8, highlighting a slight increase overall for travel reimbursement.

Employees will see a $2 increase —from $149 in fiscal 2019 to $151 in fiscal 2020 — in their allowances. The increase is reflected in the lodging allowance, which will increase from $94 to $96 per day. The meal and incidental expense allowances will stay the same at $55.

A majority of the country — approximately 2,600 counties — follow the same rate, called the Continental United States (CONUS) rate. But GSA points out in its most recent press release there are 322 non-standard areas (NSAs) in fiscal 2020, a decrease of three counties from fiscal 2019.

The only new area to become an NSA in fiscal 2020 is Boise, Idaho (Ada County). Park County, Montana has been merged with the Big Sky, Montana non-standard area. Missoula and Flathead counties, also in Montana, have been separated into their own NSAs, according to GSA.

These seven areas — NSAs in 2019 — will revert back to CONUS rates:

  • Dover, Delaware (Kent County)
  • South Bend, Indiana (St. Joseph County)
  • Benton Harbor/St. Joseph/Stevensville, Michigan (Berrien County)
  • Lake County, Montana
  • Medina County, Ohio
  • Aiken County, South Carolina
  • Sheboygan County, Wisconsin

Per diem rates are based on the average daily rate (ADR) data from the lodging industry. The ADR calculation is what provides GSA with an average rate in any given area. For 2020, the ADR data used in the per diem study was collected between April 2018 to March 2019, GSA said.

“GSA’s lodging per diem rate methodology for FY2020 was the same as previous years and includes taking five percent off of the final average daily rate in each location, which provides an additional savings measure,” GSA wrote.

Data from previous fiscal years was also used to determine new rates — including Monday through Thursday business week travel data. GSA only uses fire-safe lodging properties for federal travel and properties that fall within mid-price range.

The GSA website has a tool that will provide more info on CONUS rates per region.

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