2019 Was a Big Year for Federal Employees

December 31, 2019 12:22 PM , Updated January 13, 2020 9:39 AM
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napkin with the words '2019 review' pictured on it sitting on a wooden surface next to a coffee cup and a pen

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Happy New Year from FedSmith!

This is the time of year when I like to reflect on events from the year and their impact on the federal community.

Before I get to some of the highlights, I have to pause to give a genuine thank you to you, our readers. As much as I enjoy the opportunity each day to provide important news to the federal community, I will never forget that it would not be possible without you reading FedSmith.com. So thank you for continuing to give us the opportunity to provide this service to you.

FedSmith also would not be possible without the authors who share their knowledge and expertise with our readers. Collectively they represent vast wealth as experts in their respective fields that they bring to you each day through their articles. We hope you will express your appreciation for articles of particular interest to you through the comments section or communicating directly with the authors through our website.

Highlights from 2019

No Shutdown

Last year at this time, federal employees were just settling into dealing with the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history. While it appeared at times during this year there might be another, Congress ultimately passed a budget as the deadline drew near to fund the government for 2020.

The Pay Freeze That Wasn’t

Federal employees began 2019 with a pay freeze in addition to the shutdown. But, Congress ultimately overrode the pay freeze with a 1.9% pay raise and made it retroactive to the start of 2019.

Paid Parental Leave

Another benefit most federal employees will receive starting in 2020 thanks to legislation passed this year: paid parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child.

Despite numerous past failed attempts in Congress to provide this benefit, a bipartisan effort in 2019 led to 12 weeks of paid parental leave set to begin in October 2020.

TSP’s I Fund Changing

The Thrift Savings Plan announced this year that the I Fund will begin tracking a new investment benchmark index starting next year. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB) conducted two studies and found that the change mirrors what other large retirement plans provide to their employees and also stands to provide better investment returns.

However, the change is not without controversy. Some lawmakers vehemently opposed the change. At the forefront was Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) who sent letters in opposition to the change, introduced legislation to block it, and even asked President Trump to remove the FRTIB board members involved in the decision.

TSP Modernization Act Takes Effect

And speaking of the TSP, it got a significant overhaul in 2019 when the changes from the TSP Modernization Act finally went into effect in September. TSP participants now can enjoy expanded withdrawal options among other changes.

Stock Market Sets Multiple Record Highs

Your TSP account should be riding high as we close out 2019 with the stock market indices setting record after record throughout the year. The number of TSP millionaires has exploded as a result.

Relocating Agencies Out of Washington

Did you ever think you’d see some federal agencies’ headquarters moved out of Washington, DC? Well, it happened in 2019.

The USDA moved two of its agencies to the Kansas City area, and the Bureau of Land Management made plans to move its headquarters to Colorado.

Some lawmakers would like to see most agencies moved out of DC and introduced a bill to do so, but that seems unlikely to happen.

Labor Relations

President Trump’s hotly contested Executive Orders that placed new restrictions on federal employee unions were finally allowed to take effect this year when a court lifted an injunction that had prevented them from being enacted by agencies.

Sexual Harassment Allegations at AFGE

Speaking of unions, AFGE launched an investigation into allegations that its national president had committed acts of sexual harassment.

Conclusion

2019 was certainly a big year for the federal workforce. What other events did you find significant in the federal community? Feel free to discuss them in the comments below.

We hope 2019 was a good year for you and your family and wish everyone a happy new year and all the best in 2020!

© 2020 Ian Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ian Smith.

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About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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