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NARFE Expresses Deep Disappointment in Failure of House Appropriators to Provide Feds with Pay Raise

July 7, 2020

Alexandria, Va. – NARFE National President Ken Thomas issued the following statement in response to the release of the House of Representatives’ Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill, which failed to provide a pay adjustment for federal employees in 2021:

"Over the past few months, Congress approved spending trillions of federal dollars in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – to fund the federal and community response to the outbreak, and to provide financial relief to businesses and individuals. And the House continues to vote in favor of additional relief, health care spending, infrastructure investments and soon, annual appropriations. But when it comes time to provide a modest pay adjustment to the federal workers it relies on to carry out that federal policy and spending, House appropriators find themselves empty-handed and poverty-stricken.”

“Federal workers continue to make outstanding contributions and sacrifices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many continue to face a greater risk of infection due to their civil jobs. But House appropriators decided to ignore those contributions, look the other way, and defer their authority over federal pay to the president, risking a minimal pay increase or even a pay freeze for our nation’s dedicated public servants. It shows an unfortunate lack of respect for public service at time when we need that more than ever.

“NARFE urges the subcommittee to reconsider its position when the bill is considered this week, and further urges the full Appropriations Committee to provide federal employees with a meaningful raise if the subcommittee maintains its silence on this crucial matter.”


Congress may pass annual federal pay rate adjustments and has typically done so through the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill. However, when appropriations bills are silent on the matter, as is the case with the recently released draft of House’s fiscal year 2021 bill, federal pay adjustments are governed by the Federal Employees’ Pay Comparability Act of 1990 (FEPCA). 

Pursuant to FEPCA, federal employees should receive a 2.5 percent base increase in federal pay rates in January 2021 prior to any amount being provided for locality pay rate increases. This suggested percentage increase is based on the change (prior to development of the fiscal year 2021 budget) in wages and salaries paid to workers in the private sector, as measured by the Employment Cost Index (ECI). In the 12 months prior to the president’s budget release, the ECI increased 3 percent. FEPCA allows for the ECI minus 0.5 percent, creating a 2.5 percent base increase for Feds in 2021.

While FEPCA sets the baseline for federal pay rates, the president may propose an alternative pay adjustment for federal employees if he determines that “because of national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare,” such a pay adjustment would be inappropriate. On February 10, 2020, the president transmitted his alternative pay plan for calendar year 2021 to Congress, indicating his plan to increase federal pay rates by only 1 percent in 2021, with no adjustment to locality pay rates. But the president is not bound by that stated intention, and could decide to provide federal employees with no federal pay adjustment whatsoever, or a smaller or larger one.

Prior to the release of the bill’s language, NARFE National President Ken Thomas sent a letter to appropriators asking for pay parity between the military and civilian raises in 2021. Both the House and Senate are on track to provide military personnel with a 3 percent pay raise in 2021.



As the only organization solely dedicated to the general welfare of all federal workers and retirees, NARFE delivers valuable guidance, timely resources and powerful advocacy. For nearly a century, NARFE has been a trusted source of knowledge for the federal community, Capitol Hill, the executive branch and the media.

Jessica Klement
NARFE Staff Vice President, Policy and Programs
(703) 838-7760



National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association
NARFE (National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association)
606 N. Washington St., Alexandria, VA 22314, Phone: (703) 838-7760, Fax: (703) 838-7785.

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