President Signs Executive Order on Federal Pay Raise

Last week President Trump codified the average 1.9 percent pay raise for federal employees with an executive order. This move comes over a month after Congress appropriated the funds in 2019 appropriations legislation. This executive order effectively voids the president’s previous executive order calling for a pay freeze for all federal employees.

The March 28, 2019 Executive Order on Adjustments of Certain Rates of Pay provides federal employees with a retroactive pay raise dating back to January 6, 2019.

Under the order, General Schedule (GS) raises will range based on locality pay boosts. Residents of the Washington-Baltimore locality will receive 2.27 percent increases while other areas of the country receive closer to 1.66 percent increases.

The order also increases the pay caps that apply to upper steps of the GS system, in some localities from $164,500 to $166,000. The cap applying to SES and other senior levels is being increased from $189,600 to $192,300, with a new minimum of $127,914 from $126,128, according to analysis done by FEDweek.

According to FEDweek, the raise was meant to be applied for the pay period ending on March 30. Back pay is expected to require additional time to complete.

While this executive order nullified the president’s proposed pay freeze for 2019, the administration has already inserted plans to institute a pay freeze in the 2020 proposed budget.

Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought defended the pay freeze to House Appropriations Committee members in a hearing last week. Rather than using a pay freeze as a move to stifle federal employee pay, Vought hopes this move will provide agencies greater flexibility in the way they use pay to incentivize good behavior.

Vought explained, “[We are] putting forward a proposal in this budget to give agencies more discretion to be able to have bonus payments, increase salaries for recruitment and retention.”

Regardless of what is coming in 2020, federal employees can rest easy knowing their pay raise for 2019 will go into effect in the coming weeks.

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