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Doug Jones introduces Back Pay Fairness Act to reimburse federal workers with interest

Friday U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, introduced legislation that would require federal workers who were impacted by the shutdown to receive their full back-pay plus any interest accrued.

“If the federal government can charge you interest for being late on your taxes, then it should be paying interest on late paychecks,” Jones said. “The more than 5,500 federal workers in Alabama didn’t ask for a shutdown and shouldn’t be punished for it. It’s only fair that the government pays them back with interest for putting them out of work indefinitely or forcing them to work without pay.”

Last week, Congress passed the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019, which would require that all impacted federal employees receive compensation for wages lost during the 35-day government shutdown.

Jones said that while this is an important step, the shutdown has forced many federal workers to incur additional costs associated with loans, late bill payments and the other effects of missing paychecks.

Eight-hundred thousand federal workers have not gotten paid during the shutdown. Four-hundred and twenty thousand of those workers were required to report to their jobs every day, often in business attire or required uniform, even though they were not getting paid. Federal workers missed two bi-weekly pay checks, and many have been living off of their credit cards.

“Federal workers are experiencing serious financial hardship from the shutdown,” said American Federation of Government Employees’ National President J. David Cox, Sr. When it ends, employees will not only have to pay more than a month’s worth of overdue bills, but they will also have to pay late fees and penalties, overdraft fees and interest charges. AFGE thanks Sen. Jones for introducing the Backpay Fairness Act to help federal employees recover financially when the shutdown ends.”

Jones pointed out that federal law often recognizes the importance of timely payments when it benefits the government. For example, interest accrues on unpaid taxes from the due date of the return until the date of payment. When the federal government owes federal workers, it is only reasonable that interest accrues in this scenario, as well. The interest rate in Jones’ legislation would be equivalent to the rate that federal agencies must pay when it pays vendors late. This rate, known as the Treasury “Prompt Payment” rate, is currently 3.625 percent.

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Original co-sponsors of Jones’ legislation include senators Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, Mark Warner, D-Virginia and Ron Wyden, D-Oregon.

The government is funded until Feb. 15 while negotiations continue with President Donald Trump over his demand that Congress fund his controversial border wall on the U.S./Mexico border.

Jones defeated Judge Roy Moore in a December 2017 special election and faces voters again in the 2020 election.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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