Trump makes 2021 federal pay raise official for civilian employees

With hours to spare before the new year, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday night implementing a federal pay raise for civilian employees and military members in 2021.

Civilian employees will receive a 1% across-the-board federal pay raise in 2021. There are no additional locality pay adjustments this year.

Military members are set to receive a 3% pay raise in 2021.

The raises take effect Jan. 1.

Locality pay for civilian workers is frozen at 2020 levels, though employees on the General Schedule can still find a full list of the 2021 pay tables from the Office of Personnel Management here.

Though the Trump administration had formally approved Des Moines, Iowa, as a new locality pay area this year, the 3,100 employees working in that region won’t reap the benefits of having their own distinct rate.

Because the president didn’t authorize new locality pay adjustments this year, employees in Des Moines will see the “rest of U.S.” rate of 15.95%  factored into their salaries for 2021.

Thursday’s executive order made official what members of Congress endorsed in the 2021 omnibus spending package, which lawmakers passed days before Christmas. Trump signed the bill into law earlier this week.

The omnibus was silent on a federal pay raise for civilian employees, essentially endorsing the 1% bump the president formally proposed to Congress back in February. Senate appropriators had recommended a federal pay freeze for civilian employees in their version of the 2021 budget, but Congress ultimately choose to defer to Trump and his original proposal.

This executive order formally implements the federal pay raise for civilian employees.

A pay freeze remains in place for senior political appointees and the vice president, per language in the 2021 omnibus spending bill.

Specifically, the pay freeze covers employees serving in an Executive Schedule position, a political appointment or a chief of mission or ambassador-at-large.

The pay freeze doesn’t cover General Schedule employees, including Schedule C employees within that system, Foreign Service employees, and career members of the Senior Executive Service who have chosen to retain SES basic pay. (Find SES basic pay rates for 2021 here.)

Pay for freeze-covered Executive Schedule employees and those paid at an EX rate by law range from $148,500 to $203,500, according to OPM.

The vice president will again earn an annual salary of $235,100, according to OPM guidance.

Still, OPM continues to adjust EX pay rates in accordance with the 1% across-the-board raise, again, because not all employees are covered by a pay freeze intended for senior political appointees.

For example, employees at GS-15 whose salaries have been maxed out at the Executive Schedule IX rate will receive $172,500 in 2021, a total that reflects the 1% across-the-board pay adjustment.

Find official Executive Schedule pay rates for 2021 here.

Congress has frozen pay for political appointees at least since 2014, when lawmakers included a provision holding pay rates at 2013 levels in a 2014 omnibus. The provision detailing the pay freeze has become practically standard appropriations language since then, and it has appeared in subsequent spending bills and continuing resolutions for the past several years.

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