David Berteau, President & CEO of the Professional Services Council, details efforts to provide back pay for federal contractors after shutdowns, and how it could be done.
While employees on the federal payroll have been given back pay for this year’s historic partial shutdown, contractors weren’t similarly compensated. Some companies partially paid their employees or provided benefits, while others couldn’t afford to pay their workforce during the 35-day funding gap. David Berteau, President & CEO of the Professional Services Council, says that writing legislation to provide for contract workers is easier than it seems. “The way Congress was looking at it was adding new money. A lot can actually be done under existing appropriated funds, already obligated on those contracts. It requires adequate documentation from the company. We knew a company, for instance, who set up a separate charge number so that time would be charged to the shutdown-related unpaid status or unreimbursed status. It requires documentation, it requires some equitable adjustment, which is a process that any contract can undertake. That requires guidance and support from the program offices and the chain of command,” Berteau said. “This can all still be done and it can be done for the impact of the last shutdown. Congress could play a key role in authorizing and encouraging that kind of behavior, both in legislation and in public comments and hearings.” Berteau said that supporting back pay for federal contractors is increasingly becoming a popular position, especially given the effects that shutdowns have on the greater federal workforce. “It’s become much more critical to retain the key workforce that we have. You read every day in the paper about cyberattacks, you have to be able to recruit and maintain that cybersecurity workforce,” Berteau told Government Matters. “…This is not a good mark on the part of the government, either for employees or contractors. ‘Come work for us; we will make you work and not get paid.’ Recruitment is key here as well.”