In 2018, the Federal Salary Council added Des Moines, Iowa to the list of areas qualifying for an addition to the list of locality pay areas. The Salary Council has also recommended Imperial County, CA as an addition to the Los Angeles, CA locality pay area.
Pay Agent Approved Change in 2019
The President’s Pay Agent, the body that actually approves adding new locality pay areas, approved the recommendation in December 2019. The additions were not approved for inclusion in 2020 but it now appears that Des Moines and Imperial County will be added as new locality pay areas in 2021.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has published a Federal Register notice seeking public comment on adding these areas to the federal government’s locality pay system.
Under the OPM proposal to add these areas to the locality pay system, comments from interested parties are due by August 10, 2020. Comments must be submitted through the Federal Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.
Why Imperial County?
Imperial County, CA is in a unique situation. The county does not meet the usual criteria for being in a locality pay area. It is a “Rest of U.S.” location adjacent to the Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA, and San Diego-Carlsbad, CA, basic locality pay areas. It has approximately 1,860 GS employees receiving a “Rest of U.S.” locality pay adjustment. Imperial County is unusual in that it is adjacent to two current locality pay areas and also shares a long border with Mexico.
Imperial County would need 400 or more GS employees and an employment interchange rate of 7.5 percent or more with the Los Angeles or San Diego basic locality pay areas to be included as a locality pay area. It does not meet this standard. OPM states in its proposal, however, that while both of those employment interchange rates are below 7.5 percent, the sum of the two employment interchange rates is 7.70 percent.
OPM writes in its notice of the proposed change that:
We agree with the Council that the situation with respect to Imperial County is comparable to a single-county location that would otherwise qualify as an area of application by virtue of being adjacent to only one basic locality pay area with an employment interchange rate of 7.5 percent or more.
No other new locality pay areas are scheduled to become effective in 2021.