Biden formally announces plans to give employees a federal pay raise in 2022

President Biden has formally announced his plans to give civilian employees a federal pay raise next year, effective January, 1, 2022.

As expected, most civilian employees under the General Schedule will receive an average 2.7% federal pay raise in 2022, according to the alternative pay plan the president submitted to congressional leaders Friday afternoon.

Specifically, the president is recommending a 2.2% across-the-board pay raise for federal employees in 2022, with an additional 0.5% locality pay adjustment, totaling a 2.7% average increase.

This is the first time the Biden administration has indicated its specific plans for locality-based pay adjustments. While the White House recommended a 2.7% federal pay raise for civilian employees in its 2022 budget request, it hadn’t yet specified how locality pay would fit into the equation, if at all.

A 2.7% federal pay raise, which Federal News Network first reported back in March, would be well above the 1% bump civilian employees received this year in 2021.

Former President Donald Trump proposed a 2.6% federal pay raise for 2020, which Congress ultimately raised to 3.1% in that year’s omnibus spending package.

Of course, a 2.7% federal pay raise is the average. Some civilian employees, depending on where they work, may receive slightly more based on their locality pay area, while some may technically see a slightly lower figure.

A formula in the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act sets locality-based raises for most federal employees on the General Schedule. The president can choose to differ from this formula, but must inform Congress of his intention to do by Aug. 31.

As most presidents have done before him, Biden has chosen to deviate away from the statutory formula.

In his letter to Congress, Biden did not detail what those adjustments would have been, simply describing the increases that would have otherwise taken effect as “inappropriate.”

“This alternative pay plan decision will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well‑qualified federal workforce,” Biden wrote.

Federal pay raises should go into effect during the first pay period in January, though no adjustments are official until the president signs an executive order formally implementing them. Past presidents usually sign those executive orders near the end of the calendar year.

Federal employee unions and organizations were quick to praise the news.

“We appreciate President Biden’s desire to give federal employees a pay raise in 2022, especially one that includes an increase in locality pay rates,” Tony Reardon, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said Friday in a statement. “This is a vast improvement over the previous administration’s attempts to freeze federal pay.”

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) said it too is pleased with the raise. Military members are also on track for a 2.7% pay raise next year.

“NARFE is gratified, too, that the president answered its call earlier this year to increase locality pay rates by 0.5%, on average, ensuring that the average pay increase is on par with recent private-sector wage growth and the anticipated military pay increase,” Ken Thomas, the association’s national president, said Friday.

The American Federation of Government Employees said it’s appreciative Biden’s proposal preserves pay parity between the civilian federal workforce and the military.

“Pay parity recognizes the essential contributions that civil service and uniformed personnel make to our country, and we are pleased that the Biden administration has honored this principle,” Everett Kelley, AFGE’s national president, said.

Still, at least one union is hopeful Congress might legislate a higher federal pay raise, which lawmakers could theoretically do through legislation or, more likely, an omnibus spending package.

As has become an annual tradition, a group of House and Senate Democrats proposed higher raises for federal employees via legislation back in January. The Federal Adjustment of Income Rates (FAIR) Act calls for a 3.2% pay raise for civilian employees in 2022, a proposal which NTEU and other employee unions support.

“NTEU believes that a 3.2% average raise is merited in 2022, as called for in the FAIR Act legislation introduced earlier this year,” Reardon said. “We will continue to urge Congress to implement an average 2.2% increase across the board, plus a 1% boost toward locality pay.”

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