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Baldwin bill aims to repay federal workers’ wages missed during shutdown

Legislation is introduced to give federal employees interest in addition to their full back pay to cover damages and fees created by the government shutdown. 

Image By: Michael Makowski

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin called for a vote Monday on a new bill she has co-sponsored that would provide compensation to federal workers impacted by the government shutdown. 

The Back Pay Fairness Act was introduced by Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, to fund additional costs created by unreceived paychecks. It guarantees employees full back-pay, as well as reimbursement for other accumulated interests, such as costs associated with loans and late bill fees. 

This follows the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019. The act, signed Jan. 19, ensures federal employees would receive full wage payments missed during the government shutdown. However, it doesn’t provide funding for other damages incurred. 

Sen. Baldwin signed this first act, but also wants to see the Back Pay Fairness Act pass in order to help the financial recovery of employees that would not otherwise be necessary if the shutdown had not occurred. 

“Today, 800,000 workers nationwide and nearly 3,000 workers in Wisconsin are back at work and they will soon get their paychecks, but our work is not done for these workers who haven’t been paid in over a month,” Sen. Baldwin said in a press release. “It’s only fair that if the federal government can charge you interest for being late on your taxes, then it should be paying interest on late paychecks.”

The act employs an interest rate known as the “treasury prompt payment," which is used when federal agencies pay their vendors late. The rate is currently at 3.625 percent. 

Experts believe an interest of this kind is necessary to mitigate situations that have unfolded in employees’ personal lives. 

“The problem will go on for a very long time. There is a need for advocacy for what to do in the future and what to do about the problems we’re creating,” said Jirs Meuris, an assistant professor in UW-Madison’s management and human resources department. “It is important to advocate for policy to help workers … not just getting back pay but actually giving them interest.”

While the bill is awaiting a potential vote in the Senate, the country awaits a potential second shutdown in the coming month. 

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