Decline in Per Diem Travel Rates in Many Areas in FY 2011

While some rates are going up, federal travelers will have less money to spend in many areas while on government travel in fiscal year 2011.

The General Services Administration has released its new per diem rates. The rates become effective on October 1st. Per diem is the allowance provided to government employees for lodging
(excluding taxes), meals and incidental expenses incurred while on
official government travel.

Federal retirees are not happy that they are not getting a cost of living increase in 2011. For similar reasons, federal travelers will often find that the amount of money they will have reimbursed by the federal government when traveling on business is being reduced.

How Per Diem Works

It often seems like there is no such thing as a federal government program that is simple. Per diem rates sound simple but the process gets complicated fast.

In establishing per diem rates, GSA sets two different kinds of rates.

The agency sets a
standard per diem rate and a non-standard per diem rate. The standard rate, reviewed every three years, is an aggregate of rates for locations across the country. For fiscal year 2011, which starts on October 1, 2010, the standard per diem rate will jump from $70 to $77 to reflect the average daily rate for lodging across the country. The standard rate is used in 2600 counties.

Reimbursement for meals and incidental expenses will not change. These rates range from $46 through $71 for meals per day depending on the location and $5 for incidental expenses.

The result is that for most of the United States the standard per diem rate will be $123 ($77 lodging, $46 meals and incidental expenses) beginning on October 1st.

GSA says that the overall decrease in per diem costs in fiscal year 2011 is 3.85 percent after factoring in meals and incidental expenses. The reason for the decline is a decrease of 5.73 percent in the estimated cost of hotel rates.

How You May Be Impacted in Traveling to Non-Standard Areas

There are 378 non-standard areas also used by GSA in deciding how much a federal traveler will receive when conducting business on behalf of Uncle Sam. There are 378 of these non-standard areas across the country. The rates for 310 of these areas will decrease in the new fiscal year. 50 of the areas will go up and 18 will remain the same. The per diem rate is the maximum allowable reimbursement rates for federal travelers.

In some areas, there has been a significant reduction. For example, a number of readers will be traveling to Washington, DC on business. Depending on when you travel there, you will get up to $300 reimbursed in 2010. In 2011, traveling during the same time period, you will receive $282.

But those traveling to Manhattan will feel a bigger pinch. Under the 2010  rates, you would have received $411 in reimbursed expenses if you traveled between October and December. But, if you travel there between October and December 2010 (using the FY 2011 rates), you will only receive $340. 

For more information on the rates, you can use this 2010 per diem rate spreadsheet and compare it to the 2011 per diem rates. You can use the GSA website.


About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47