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Sen. Schatz Urges Immediate Back Pay for Federal Workers

January 26, 2019, 1:34 PM HST
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Following an agreement reached to end the Trump shutdown on Jan. 25, 2019, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) called on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the agency that manages the federal government’s civilian workforce, to immediately provide back pay to the 800,000 federal workers who have gone without pay because of the government shutdown.

“This government shutdown made it clearer than ever just how dedicated civil servants are to their jobs, and how vital those jobs are to the nation. We ask that you publicize when exactly these civil servants can expect to receive their back pay, and we hope it will arrive very soon,” Sen. Schatz wrote.

Earlier this month, the president signed legislation cosponsored by Sen. Schatz that ensured that all federal workers would receive back pay “at the earliest date possible after the lapse in appropriations ends, regardless of scheduled pay dates.”

In addition to Schatz, the letter to OPM was signed by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

The full text of Schatz’s letter follows:

Dear Acting Director Weichert:

Now that the longest ever government shutdown is finally over, we are writing to urge you to provide back pay for federal workers as soon as possible. More than 800,000 federal workers have gone without pay because the government shutdown locked them out of their jobs or required them to work without pay. These workers need to know now when they will finally receive their missed paychecks.

On Friday, January 25th, as President Trump finally announced that he would end this government shutdown, many federal workers missed their second full paycheck. These federal workers have seen bills pile up during the government shutdown, and many of them are currently paying high interest on credit cards or even payday loans to afford basic needs. We have heard from civil servants who will not be able to make their February rent or mortgage payment without their back pay.

We supported the recently enacted Government Employee Fair Treatment Act, which ensured that all federal workers would receive back pay. That law mandates that the federal government shall provide back pay, “at the earliest date possible after the lapse in appropriations ends, regardless of scheduled pay dates.” We are pleased to see your recent OPM guidance reaffirming this requirement in the law. And we note that when President Trump announced he would agree to reopen the government, he said, “I will make sure that all employees receive their back pay very quickly, or as soon as possible. It will happen fast.”

This government shutdown made it clearer than ever just how dedicated civil servants are to their jobs, and how vital those jobs are to the nation. We ask that you publicize when exactly these civil servants can expect to receive their back pay, and we hope it will arrive very soon.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

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