Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that on October 28, 2009, President Obama signed into law, H.R. 2647, legislation to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2010 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for defense activities of the Department of Energy, and for other purposes including provisions to transition federal employees in the US Territories and possessions to receive locality pay.
“The National Defense Authorization Act of FY 2010 signals an important turn in the history of federal service in American Samoa and I want to thank President Obama and my colleagues in Congress, for recognizing the need to give fair treatment to federal employees in our Territory. I especially want to thank my good friend, Senator Akaka for his leadership and Congressman Abercrombie for working diligently on this important issue. I also want to commend Congresswoman Christensen, Congresswoman Bordallo, Congressman Pierluisi, Congressman Sablan, and all my colleagues for their support,” Faleomavaega said.
“Since 1948, when President Truman signed into law pay differentials for federal service outside of the States based on cost of living adjustments (COLA), American Samoa was not included and has been facing an uphill battle since. In 1985, Executive Order 12510 replaced the word territory with nonforeign areas. And while American Samoa by definition is a nonforeign area, federal employees in the Territory continued to be excluded from COLA payments and related benefits.”
“Over the past several years, addressing this disparity has been my concern. After many discussions with the Office of Personnel and Management (OPM) in 2007, I introduced legislation, HR 1786, to include federal employees in American Samoa for COLA payments. Subsequently, HR 1786 was referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Post Office and the District of Columbia, at which time I testified before the Committee on July 31, 2007 and reiterated my concerns on the unfair treatment of federal employees in American Samoa,” Faleomavaega explained.
“In 2008, Senator Akaka introduced S. 3013, legislation to transition federal employees in Hawaii and Alaska to receive locality pay. In a letter sent on July 23, 2008, I shared my concern with Senator Akaka and requested that American Samoa be included in his legislation, S. 3013. Senator Akaka was very kind to work with us on this important matter and helped resolved many of our concerns with the bill at the time. Specifically, I wanted to make sure that federal employees in American Samoa, although currently excluded from COLA payments, should be covered under the proposed locality pay scheme. Again I want to thank Senator Akaka and my colleagues for listening to my concerns.”
“While S. 3013 saw little action in 2008, it provided the basis for HR 2990 that the House passed on June 2009. HR 2990 was then appended to HR 2647, the National Defense Authorization Act of FY 2010, which the Senate agreed to on October 22, 2009 and was signed today by President Obama,” Faleomavaega added.
Under the new law, Section 1912, federal employees in all Territories and possessions, including American Samoa, will transition to locality pay. Starting in the first year, federal employees in American Samoa will receive 1/3 of the rate for the “Rest of the US”; 2/3 in the second year, and by the third year, they would receive the full rate, which is at 13.8-percent.
In addition, Section 1915 of HR 2647 provides that it is the Sense of Congress that: beginning after the date of enactment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) should conduct separate surveys to determine any pay disparity for the Territories including American Samoa. If there is such pay disparity, a separate locality pay for American Samoa is to be established. Otherwise, federal employees in American Samoa and the other Territories would continue at the rate for “the Rest of the United States.”
“Specific details remain on how OPM is expected to implement the new law and I will continue to follow this closely. Nonetheless, I am pleased that the U.S. Congress and the President recognize the need to provide for fair treatment of federal employees in American Samoa,” Faleomavaega concluded.