2019 Retroactive Pay Raise is Almost Here

What is taking the pay raise so long to arrive? OPM’s director provides an explanation.

Federal employees have been wondering when they can expect their retroactive pay raise that was passed into law recently. According to Office of Personnel Management acting director Margaret Weichert, it is the final stages of what is a lengthy implementation process.

“The EO [executive order] that unleashes the retroactive pay is dealing with pay tables that are so highly complex, that it is exceedingly legalistic how we have to actually get this squared away,” Weichert said in public remarks on Wednesday. “It’s purely a lawyering activity that is near its end.”

FedSmith.com readers are understandably frustrated at the length of time the process is taking. Some have blamed President Trump for the delays on giving them the pay raise. Others have expressed skepticism about the stated complexity and length of time required to complete the process.

For example, one wrote, “It didn’t take long to pass and implement the 14 percent tax cut on all the businesses across America. Further, it didn’t take long to implement the pay raise for the military. It didn’t take long to put 800,000 federal workers on the dole, so yea, I am pretty sure someone in the White house gave the instruction to foot drag this as long as possible…”

Another said, “…Trump is too busy golfing to sign executive order for pay raise.”

Another wrote, “How long does it take to calculate those pay tables (assuming there are 50 at least) on today’s state of the art computer and payroll systems? Not much. I am assuming the delay is just the issue of the EO.”

Another person doubted the complexity of the process of producing new pay tables: “..its [sic] NEVER taken this long for a raise adjustment. I could do the whole thing in Excel in 10 minutes.”

Weichert said she understands and shares the frustration, but she said the delay is actually a result of the overly complex, cumbersome, and legalistic process of implementing the new pay tables which have to go into the executive order.

“We’re in the final legal clearance stage, and I know that sounds like you’ve heard that before, but to me, this is an object lesson in the complexity of our pay systems,” said Weichert. “I totally get that people are frustrated that it takes this long. I’m frustrated too.”

The bill authorizing the 1.9% pay raise was signed into law 33 days ago (as of the time of this writing). The last time a similar situation took place was in 2004 when Congress overrode President Bush’s proposed pay raise with a larger one. It was a total of 40 days between when the law was signed and the pay raise was implemented, so what we are seeing today is not unprecedented.

The Office of Management and Budget also has to review and approve the finalized pay tables before they are published in the executive order.

As of last estimation, it would be late March or early April when the finalized pay raise hit, and it’s looking like that may end up being pretty accurate.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. 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.