No Retroactive Pay Raise Currently in the Works

Two open bills in Congress would give federal employees a raise, but neither one offers a retroactive pay increase.

Two bills pending in Congress would give federal employees a pay raise in 2019, but it would not be retroactive.

One of the bills has had movement in the House. In fact, the House recently passed it, but in doing so, the bill was amended to go from being a retroactive pay raise to one that takes effect if/when the bill becomes law. No word yet on if or when the Senate will consider the bill.

Companion legislation to this House bill was also introduced in the Senate and so far has not had any movement. It was unknown until this week if the pay raise named in the bill was retroactive or not since the text of the bill had not been published, but now that it has, it makes it clear that it would not be retroactive either, stating that the raise “shall apply beginning on the date of enactment of this Act.”

Like the House bill, it also contains a 2.6% pay raise for federal employees in 2019.

Pay Freeze

As federal workers know, there is currently a pay freeze for 2019 that went into effect at the start of the year. This is what the White House originally proposed, and since Congress did not take any action to override it, the pay freeze ultimately went into effect.

Because this is the stated position of the White House, it seems unlikely that either of these bills will become law, assuming they make it all the way through both the House and the Senate and get to the president’s desk.

Is a Pay Raise Off the Table?

So does this mean a pay raise is out of the question for this year? Not necessarily.

While these bills look doubtful to become law given the sequence of events that have transpired thus far, it is possible that Congress could slip a pay raise into a broader funding bill for the government to prevent another shutdown and fund agencies for the rest of the year. Something like a pay raise for the federal workforce could be a compromising issue to help get the votes needed to pass a bill that contains funding for a border wall that President Trump has repeatedly requested from Congress. Any such bill is likely to contain lot of different provisions, and a pay raise could certainly be one of them.


Saturday, February 16, 8:07 AM EST

Federal employees ultimately got a retroactive 1.9% pay raise after all thanks to a spending bill that was signed into law to fund government for the remainder of the fiscal year.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.