If your federal job is going to require you to move, you may be wondering whether you can get relocation assistance from the government. Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as yes or no. Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for relocation assistance and other benefits, such as a relocation incentive, government-paid transportation and house-hunting, and even a home marketing incentive to help you sell your old home.
Am I Qualified for Relocation Assistance?
When members of the military are given new orders that require them to move, the government funds their moving expenses, from helping them find housing to packing, moving, and self storage of their household goods. Non-military federal employees are a little different, though, since you aren’t required to move. You always have the option to turn down the job.
Relocation benefits are designed to help the government find good employees for hard-to-fill jobs, either because of the location or because the job requires a specialization that is hard to find. Relocation benefits are not to make it easier for you to move, but to make it easier for the government to find someone qualified for the position.
In order for you to qualify for relocation assistance, therefore, the hiring agency has to be able to demonstrate that it would be difficult for them to find qualified candidates without offering incentives such as relocation assistance and bonuses. Additionally, the new position either needs to be more than 50 miles away, or far enough that it would require you to relocate for another reason (e.g., the geography of the area doesn’t make commuting from your current residence an option).
What Relocation Benefits Does the Government Offer Federal Employees?
Even if you qualify for relocation assistance, some of the benefits you are eligible for will depend on the hiring agency. Here is a list of relocation benefits that may be available to you. Be sure to check with your new employer, however, as not all of these are available from every agency.
For both new hires and existing federal employees who are transferring to a new federal job, the government will pay to move and temporarily store your household goods, up to 18,000 pounds. Existing federal employees may also be reimbursed for other moving expenses, so be sure to keep all your receipts!
The government will also provide with someone to help you make decisions such as where to live, whether to rent or buy, and to assist you in things such as selling your old home and enrolling your kids in school. Moving can be an overwhelming experience, but the government is there to help make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.
The government pays for transportation to the new location for you, your spouse, and your kids, whether you are a new hire or a transferee. New hires get a per diem for themselves for every day on the road, while existing employees also get a per diem for their spouse and kids. The government may also cover shipping your cars to the new location. Once again, it’s important to keep all your receipts when traveling.
Depending on the individual agency you’ll be working for, if you are transferring from another federal job the government may provide transportation and a per diem for both you and your spouse to look for your new home. You only get this benefit once you’ve accepted the contract, however — you can’t use it to decide whether you’ll take the job!
Home marketing incentive
Depending on the agency, transferees may also qualify for an additional bonus to help you list your home for sale.
An agency also may offer a bonus to encourage employees to relocate. The bonus is typically 25 percent of your starting salary at the new job, multiplied by the number of years in the contract (a maximum of 4). In special cases the bonus can be as high as 50 percent of the starting salary, but the total bonus still can’t exceed 100 percent of your starting salary, so this is only helpful for shorter contracts.
What If I Don’t Complete the Contract?
When you are given relocation assistance and other benefits, you usually sign a contract that designates a service period, at least 12 months but no more than 4 years. If you are being paid a relocation incentive, the service agreement will determine whether you get the full amount as a lump sum once you’ve moved, at the end of the contract, or in periodic installments.
If you quit or are fired for poor performance during the contract period, however, you are only entitled to the incentive for the amount of time you worked. If you were paid the full amount at the beginning of the contract, you will need to reimburse the government for difference. In addition, if you don’t complete the contract, other benefits will need to be repaid, such as any relocation assistance you received.
Do I Understand My Relocation Benefits?
Moving can be an overwhelming proposition, but most of us have to move for work at some point during our lives. Whether you are an existing federal employee, transferring to a new position, or a new hire altogether, be sure that you understand the relocation benefits you are being offered. The better you understand them, and the better organized you are, the more smoothly your move will go!