President Trump late on Thursday issued an executive order formalizing a 1 percent across the board pay raise, with no differences by locality, for federal employees in 2021.
The raise is effective with the first full pay period of the year, which runs January 3-16, meaning that employees should see the impact in their pay when the distribution for that pay period is made—about a week later, give or take a few days, in most cases.
The GS pay cap—which affects the upper steps of GS-15 in about half of the four dozen GS localities—is rising from $170,800 to $172,500.
The order also increases the pay caps for career SES, senior level and senior scientific and professional positions who are paid within a range and get performance-based raises. The minimum for them now will be $132,552 and the maximum either $199,300 or $183,300. The higher figure applies to agencies where the performance evaluation systems are certified as making meaningful distinctions based on differences in performance; most agencies have that designation.
The “total compensation” cap—pay and awards combined—will be either $255,800 or $221,400, again depending on that certification.
Certain additional post-employment restrictions apply to those paid at a rate of basic pay equal to or greater than 86.5 percent of the rate for Executive Schedule Level II, which will to $172,395 in 2021.
The long-standing policy of limiting raises for federal wage system (also called wage grade) employees at the GS amount will continue.
The order–which also sets out rates for separate salary systems for the Foreign Service, administrative law judges and some other smaller categories–followed by less than a week Trump’s signature of a bill extending agency spending authority for the remainder of the current fiscal year (and containing numerous pandemic relief provisions) that was silent on a pay raise.
That silence was effectively an endorsement of the 1 percent across the board raise that the administration advocated for most of the year, an increase set to take effect by default if Congress did not specify an amount in a budget measure. Late in the year, though, an OMB statement backed a freeze as proposed in a Senate bill.
That raised some question as to the final outcome, after the wrapup budget bill passed Congress with no mention of a raise. But despite the OMB statement just weeks before, Trump’s order formalized the raise as he had originally proposed.
Also taking effect under the order is the creation a new GS locality for the Des Moines, Iowa, area, as well the addition of Imperial County, Calif., to the Los Angeles locality. The Des Moines area has now been defined, as consisting of Boone, Dallas, Guthrie, Jasper, Madison, Polk, Story and Warren counties. Creating a new locality or adding an area to a higher-paid one benefits employees working in those areas by moving them out of the lowest-paid locality, the “rest of the U.S.” locality.
For 2021 the 3,100 employees in the Des Moines area will not see a pay increase beyond the 1 percent general raise. However, the about 1,900 in Imperial County will see a substantial boost by being added to the Los Angeles locality, one of the higher-paid.
2021 GS Locality Pay Tables