Q: I’m curious to know what your take is on the Imperial County’s supposed cost of living increase for 2020? All the rumors are that the salary council has approved it but just needs to be approved by the presidents pay agent. If this is the case when does the pay agent typically review these types of things?
Note: My question is in regards to an email I received that stated, “in another win for union members Des Moines, Iowa will become a new locality in 2020 while Imperial County in California will be added to the Los Angeles locality pay area.”
A: The only reference to this area in the latest Federal Salary Council report is that some federal employees there have contacted the Salary Council about creating this county as a new locality pay area or, possibly, adding it to an existing locality pay area. The latest Salary Council report recommends adding this locality in 2020. In a 2018 Salary Council report, however, there was also mention of federal employees in Imperial County requesting to be a locality pay area.
The Salary Council recommended including Imperial County as part of the Los Angeles locality pay area without any discussion. It also recommended nine other areas. I am not aware that any of these areas have been added as new locality pay areas but that could occur in the future.
Generally, the President’s Pay Agent issues its report late in the year—typically in November or December. When it decides to add a locality pay area, that is usually done after OPM issues a proposal in the Federal Register the following year. This usually takes effect in the year following the OPM proposal. But, as you noted in your email, the Pay Agent usually approves or disapproves a recommendation from the Salary Council which has apparently not happened with Imperial County as it did with the Burlington, VT, Virginia Beach, VA, Corpus Christi, TX or Birmingham, AL areas. Adding these other areas went through the process outlined above before being added.
I hope this is helpful to you. This is based on quick research based on your note. I am not aware of Imperial County coming up in other reports on this topic beyond what I’ve mentioned here.
It is possible that these areas will be added in 2020 although that is optimistic. The President’s Pay Agent has not approved adding Imperial County or Des Moines. If the Pay Agent recommendations come out late in the year, and if they approve adding those areas, and OPM issues a proposed change to the locality pay areas in the Federal Register in 2020, the changes could take place in 2021. Obviously, no one knows when or if these actions will take place.
It is also possible these actions could take place earlier this year and the new locality pay areas could be implemented in 2020. I would not count on that although it is a possibility. The comments by the union are optimistic and probably misleading although it is possible they have information not generally available. My guess is that with President Trump in office, the union does not have the inside sources they had under President Obama but you would have to pose that question to the local that provided the information.
As we have noted in recent articles, some who have been added to locality pay areas have been disappointed with the pay raises they did receive as they are usually still very small compared to expectations.
I hope this is helpful! Sorry we do not have more definitive information. As soon as information, we will provide it to our readers.