House Advances Spending Package with Back Pay for Low Wage Contractor Employees

The House approved a spending package that includes back pay for low wage federal contractor employees.

The House passed a $383 billion spending package yesterday which includes a provision to provide back pay to low wage contract workers for the partial government shutdown that took place earlier this year.

Similar legislation has been pushed in the past as well. Earlier this year, legislation was introduced in the House by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) to provide back pay to low wage federal contract workers impacted by the shutdown that began just before Christmas.

The bill that just passed in the House contained the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act of 2019 (H.R. 678), legislation that was introduced by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA). As written when introduced, that bill stipulated that “service employees” and “laborer or mechanic” employees were the ones who would receive back pay for the shutdown under the bill.

Pressley said in a press release posted at the time the bill was introduced that her bill was different from Norton’s in that it would “provide another mechanism to provide backpay for these [low wage contract] workers” by doing the following:

  • Federal contract employers are able to be reimbursed for covering costs associated with the shutdown, including retroactive backpay for workers, in an amount equal to their weekly compensation or up to 200% of the federal poverty level for a family of four.
  • Ensure that low-wage janitorial, food service, and security employees as well as those working on construction projects and other administrative supports receive backpay for wages lost during the shutdown.

“I’m thrilled the House has passed legislation that would finally provide federal contract workers the back pay,” Pressley said in response to passage of the bill in the House. “Our government relies on these hardworking men and women to keep our government buildings running, and we have a moral obligation to make them whole for the pay they lost during the government shutdown.”

The spending bill will now have to go through the Senate and be signed by the president to become law, something that appears unlikely to happen.

Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX), the leading Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, expressed doubts about the bill going further, stating, “House Democrats have wasted opportunity after opportunity to pass meaningful, bipartisan appropriations bills. Instead, they have written bills that irresponsibly increase spending and include partisan riders that Republicans simply cannot support.”

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.