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Wexton, Cummings, and Connolly Investigate Delayed Back Pay and Payroll Problems for Furloughed and Excepted Federal Employees

Feb 13, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C.—Yesterday, Rep. Jennifer Wexton, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management after reports of delayed back pay and other payroll inconsistencies experienced by furloughed and excepted federal employees.

“Although Congress passed legislation to guarantee back pay for federal workers, we have heard reports of many instances of shorted pay and inconsistent tax deductions that left workers unable to make mortgage or rent payments,” the Members wrote.  “They also received paychecks that did not reflect adjustments for missed insurance premiums, Thrift Savings Plan loan repayments, and court-ordered deductions, which have resulted in confusion and additional burdens on federal workers.”

During the 35-day government shutdown, Wexton co-led bipartisan legislation to protect benefits for furloughed employees and introduced a resolution condemning government shutdowns.

All three members are original co-sponsors of H.R. 790, the Federal Civilian Workforce Pay Raise Fairness Act, which provides federal civilian employees with the same 2.6 percent pay increase in 2019 that members of the military received.  The bill passed the House on January 30, 2019.

The letter is available here and pasted below:

 

February 12, 2019

 

The Honorable Mick Mulvaney                                  The Honorable Margaret M. Weichert

Director                                                                       Acting Director

Office of Management and Budget                            Office of Personnel Management

725 17th Street, N.W.                                                 1900 E Street, N.W.

Washington, D.C.  20503                                            Washington, D.C.  20415

 

Dear Director Mulvaney and Acting Director Weichert:

 

We write concerning numerous reports of problems surrounding back pay for hundreds of thousands of federal workers who were furloughed or worked without pay during the shutdown.

 

The prolonged federal government shutdown that lasted for 35 days forced our federal workers to go without paychecks, requiring them to make difficult financial decisions for their families.

 

Although Congress passed legislation to guarantee back pay for federal workers, we have heard reports of many instances of shorted pay and inconsistent tax deductions that left workers unable to make mortgage or rent payments.  They also received paychecks that did not reflect adjustments for missed insurance premiums, Thrift Savings Plan loan repayments, and court-ordered deductions, which have resulted in confusion and additional burdens on federal workers.

 

Although we commend your offices for urging the impacted federal agencies to act promptly, we have concerns over the guidance the Office of Personnel Management issued in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget on January 27, 2019, directing payroll providers to “make some simplifying assumptions.”[1]

 

Given that there are several different payroll providers serving federal agencies, we ask you to provide an update on the progress made by each agency that was shut down in ensuring prompt and accurate issuance of back pay to employees who were furloughed or required to work without pay.  We also request that you answer the following questions by February 26, 2019:

 

  1. How many federal workers were furloughed or worked without pay during the shutdown?  Of those, how many are still owed backpay?

 

  1. What specific plans are in place to ensure that retroactive pay for furloughed or excepted employees is processed as soon as possible?

 

  1. For instances in which paychecks were issued in amounts less than that owed to federal employees, what steps will be taken to ensure that all remaining amounts owed to workers will be paid in full?

 

  1. What options do federal workers have for retroactively paying wage garnishments which were halted by payroll processors because of the shutdown?

 

  1. What information has been provided by agencies to workers regarding these options?

 

  1. For instances in which there have been inconsistent federal tax deductions between pay periods, what information have agencies provided to workers to help them ensure that the deductions are accurate?

 

The Committee on Oversight and Reform is the principal oversight committee of the House of Representatives and has broad authority to investigate “any matter” at “any time” under House Rule X.

An attachment to this letter provides additional instructions for responding to this request. If you have any questions, please contact Rep. Wexton’s staff at (202) 225-5136, Oversight Committee staff at (202) 225-5051, and Rep. Connolly’s staff at (202) 225-1492.  Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

 

                                                                        Sincerely,

 


            Jennifer Wexton                                                        Elijah E. Cummings

            Member                                                                   Chairman

                                                                                           Committee on Oversight and Reform                       

 

 

Gerald E. Connolly                                           

Chairman

Subcommittee on Government Operations
                                                           

 
116th Congress