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Sewell introduces Back Pay Fairness Act to reimburse federal workers, plus interest

A flag flies outside the U.S. Capitol Building. (STOCK PHOTO)

U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell, D-Selma, and Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Maryland, introduced legislation Thursday to provide back pay to federal workers impacted by the government shutdown with interest.

“The Trump shutdown created significant financial insecurity for federal employees,” Sewell said. “Not only should the government pay back lost wages, it should work to reverse the real economic pain that will extend well into the future. When taxpayers owe the federal government, interest accrues on late payments. There should be no difference when the federal government owes its hardworking employees.”

“My hope is that this bill will serve as a deterrent for future shutdowns: never again should our hardworking civil servants be used as political pawns,” Ruppersberger said. “But in the unfortunate event that we experience another government shutdown, this legislation will ensure employees will be able to recover from the painful – and long-lasting – impacts.”

When Congress voted to re-open the government in January, all impacted federal employees receive compensation for wages lost during the government shutdown. However, many federal workers were forced to incur additional costs associated with the shutdown, including late payments on bills and loans.

The Back Pay Fairness Act (H.R. 1051) would provide federal workers back pay with interest matched to the Treasury Prompt Payment policy, the same interest rate federal agencies pay on late payments to vendors and contractors. The legislation will retroactively apply to all government shutdowns after December 22, 2018 and provide future security by ensuring federal workers will receive due pay with accrued interest for all future shutdowns.

The government has had two shutdowns have during the Trump administration. Most recently, President Donald J. Trump’s (R) demand for border wall funding closed the government for a record 35 days, causing hundreds of thousands of workers to miss two paychecks.

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Alabama) previously introduced the Back Pay Fairness Act in the Senate.

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“If the federal government can charge you interest for being late on your taxes, then it should be paying interest on late paychecks,” said Senator Doug Jones, who has also requested his paycheck be withheld until federal workers receive their back pay. “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.”

Sewell is serving her fifth term representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional district. She sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence where she serves as the Chair of the Subcommittee on Defense Intelligence and Warfighter Support.

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

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