House Appropriations Package Now Includes Contractor Back Pay

Evgeniia Ozerkina/

There is still a chance federal contractors unpaid during the 35-day shutdown could get back pay.

The House Appropriations Committee added a provision to an upcoming spending package that would offer back pay to hundreds of thousands of federal contractors who went unpaid during the 35-day government shutdown during December and January.

The provision borrows language from bicameral legislation introduced after the shutdown by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass, and Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., that focused on paying back lower-income contractors, such as cafeteria workers, security guards and janitors.

The Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act, now included in an omnibus spending package that includes funding for the departments of Interior, Justice, Agriculture and Commerce, would pay back contractors designated as “service employees,” and also laborers or mechanics who make up to $965 per week.

“The inclusion in the omnibus of the ‘Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act of 2019’ is an important first step to ensuring fairness and parity for the federal contracting community,” said Professional Services Council president David Berteau. PSC represents hundreds of defense and tech contractors.

“Hundreds of thousands of workers support the government through contracts, delivering services to ensure federal agencies can meet their mission needs. Enactment of this legislation would benefit the many contractor employees still facing a financial hardship brought on through no fault of their own,” Berteau said.

The House will vote on the spending measure later this month, and while it is expected to pass, the Senate could present a hurdle. In February, similar language that would have paid back contractors did not make it into the final version of a spending bill after some Republican senators voiced opposition. Meanwhile, President Trump signed legislation that reimbursed all federal employees.

The 35-day shutdown—the longest in American history—forced tens of thousands of layoffs among contractors and temporarily halted several important government contracts that were left unfunded. At one point during the shutdown, PSC estimated the shutdown cost contractors $1.5 billion per week.