If you feel totally confused and out of the loop on the subject of a 2020 federal pay raise, or inflation catch up for retirees, it doesn’t mean you haven’t been paying attention. The problem is with the system and the fact that the people running it, i.e the White House and Congress, have so much to do while at the same time, so many excuses to be away from Washington.
This time last year it appeared federal white collar workers might be in for another pay freeze while the size of any retiree cost of living adjustment was still to be determined. In fact, civil service, military and Social Security retirees got a 2.8% COLA. Those retired under the diet COLA formula of the Federal Employees Retirement System program got a flat 2%.
The White House first blocked any 2020 federal pay raise. There was no budget approved when the December-January partial government shutdown hit, and went on, and on for a record 35 days. But after the dust settled Congress pushed through a pay raise. Civilian employees got 1.9% that was retroactive to January.
Because of the no-pay shutdown thousands of feds had to take out hardship loans. Many also visited food kitchens in Washington, D.C., and near other major federal job centers. Bottom line is that feds and retirees had no idea this time last year what, if or when they would be getting a raise or COLA — nevermind the amount of any raise or inflation catch up. So it’s deja vu all over again.
What we know is that the president doesn’t want any 2020 civilian federal pay raise — period. Instead he wants to set up a system that would let agencies reward top performers with over-and-above raises. What, vets of government service ask, could possibly go wrong?
Democrats in the House, led by delegations in the metro Washington area are insisting on a 3.6% raise. That could be problematic since the Senate Armed Services Committee has already cleared an administration-backed 3.1% raise for members of the uniformed military. Congress has rarely, if ever, given civilians a bigger percentage pay raise than the military.
But the fact that there are actual numbers out there and approved, by the Republican-led Senate and the Democratic-controlled House, is a good sign that one of those numbers: 3.1 or 3.6% could stick.
The retiree COLA will be determined later this year. It’s based the rise in living costs from the third quarter of this year (July, August and September) over the third quarter of the previous year. Right now that stands at 1.21% but it is possible — if there is long-term deflation for the rest of the year — the COLA could be less. The official COLA figure, if any, won’t be announced until early October. For more on how that process works, click here.
For what’s going on in Congress and the White House remember what you and the experts were thinking this time last year. And try to remember the experts who said there would never be a shutdown around Christmas (there was) and if it happened, it would be short and sweet. Nobody predicted the 35-day debacle.
On. Oct. 20, 1992, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to allow city police officer Bob Geary to carry a ventriloquist dummy, named Officer Brendan O’Smarty, on patrol. The dummy was meant as a public relations gimmick, but Geary still had to clear each use with his superiors in advance.