Why some feds are still missing pay after the shutdown – By Jessie Bur (Federal Times) / Feb 9 2019
Employees at some federal agencies have received paychecks below their biweekly pay, causing concerns that they still have not made up the lost salaries caused by the month-long government shutdown.
Federal employees whose pay comes through the Interior Business Center — which includes agencies such as NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Interior itself — have reported paychecks sometimes missing over a quarter of their regular pay from the shutdown.
“We’ve got people here at [NSF], myself included, that are missing 25 to 33 percent of their pay, and this is from the Interior Business Center, that’s who handles NSF payroll,” American Federation of Government Employees Local 3403 President Dave Verardo said in a Feb. 6 press call.
“But a whole lot of things weren’t taken out, things like childcare, alimony, some healthcare issues, certainly union dues, and the agency has told us that we’re supposed to just deal directly with those creditors.”
The Office of Personnel Management pushed agencies to get paychecks out for shutdown-impacted feds as quickly as possible, announcing that most feds would begin to receive their back pay by the end of January.
And while feds have received that pay, much of it falls under the level they should be getting paid.
“We’ve got one guy that was paid three times in one day and still came up short,” said Verado.
“We’ve been told that we’ll be made whole in the next pay period, but now the agency’s starting to wiggle a little bit on that.”
According to an email sent to NASA employees and obtained by Federal Times, the discrepancy is due to IBC applying maximum deductions to paychecks from the shutdown in order to get pay out as soon as possible, while decreasing the likelihood that an employee will have to give money back for getting overpaid.
“In order to quickly process these payments without delays that would result from running a full payment calculation, the IBC used a set of standard rules for each of these pay periods,” the email said.
Federal taxes were withheld at approximately 22 percent, state taxes withheld at approximately five percent, Thrift Savings Plan withheld at 10 percent and Social Security taxes withheld at 6.2 percent.
“An employee’s estimated deductions listed above, along with voluntary contributions (e.g., TSP loans, automatic allotments/payments, etc.) not being deducted, are the primary reason the first and/or second pay period off-cycle payment is different from a normal paycheck,” the email said.
Feds receiving their paychecks from IBC should receive the normal amount of money for the Jan. 20 to Feb. 2 pay period, and all missing pay will be calculated and paid back to feds, according to the email.
Some employees did not receive their shutdown payment at all yet, which the email said is due to an employee receiving an annuity without offset pay, being scheduled to leave the agency, being on leave without pay or working less than 64 hours in a pay period.
The agency plans to contact those employees to address next steps.