The House and Senate this week approved a funding package that keeps the federal government funded through September, 2016. The $1.1 trillion year-end funding bill covers everything from agency funding to a lifetime health care program for 9/11 first responders. It also has a few safeguards to protect federal employees.
Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, who is also vice chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the funding bill provides 10-year credit-monitoring services and $5 million in identity theft insurance to federal employees and other victims of data breaches. The Office of Personnel Management currently provides only three years of credit monitoring and $1 million in insurance.
Mikulski also made sure no provision was included in the bill to block federal employees’ 1.3% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) proposed by the White House.
“I’m fighting on the front lines on behalf of federal employees just as hard as federal employees work each and every day on behalf of the American people,” Senator Mikulski said. “I went to bat to protect this modest pay increase together with a locality pay increase for federal employees living in our nation’s more costly regions. Together, they will go a long way in recognizing the value of federal employees and builds on the progress made in fiscal year 2015 to allow modest adjustments in pay.”
The bill adheres to a bipartisan budget agreement passed by Congress in October that raised previously imposed spending caps.
AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. said while he’s glad that a deal has been struck, he shares the frustration of AFGE members and the American public at how disorganized and chaotic the budget process has been in recent years.
“It’s Congress’ sole responsibility to pass an annual budget that keeps our government programs and services operating on time. The constant threat of government shutdowns needs to stop,” he said.
Meanwhile, a tax extension bill that passed both the House and the Senate would make a permanent boost in the benefit for public transit riders. The amount had been cut from $245 to $130 the past two years, but the bill would make it go back up to $255 next year. This would bring parity between the parking and public transit benefits.