NB_360_18_41 - NB 360-18-41 PER – Award Guidance for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 General Schedule (GS) Employees for FPAC Business Center Transition
NB 360-18-41 PER – Award Guidance for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 General Schedule (GS) Employees for FPAC Business Center Transition
National Bulletin: 360-18-41 Date: September 17, 2018
Subject: PER – Award Guidance for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 General Schedule (GS) Employees for FPAC Business Center Transition  


Action Required By: October 12, 2018 
 
Purpose.   To provide guidance regarding FY 2019 awards, including awards for the FY 2018 performance management cycle ending on September 30, 2018, for employees transitioning to the FPAC Business Center.      
 
Expiration Date.   September 30, 2019   
 
Background.   The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued M-17-07, Guidance on Awards for Non-SES/SL/ST Employees for Fiscal Year 2017, on November 18, 2016, raising the spending limits for nonexecutive monetary awards. OMB officially extended the provisions of M-17-07 for FY 2018 and have confirmed the guidance will also apply to FY 2019 awards. The guidance remains as follows for FY 2019:

Agencies are authorized to spend up to 1.5 percent of their respective aggregate salaries for all non-SES/SL/ST monetary performance awards, extra-effort awards, and spot awards, and are responsible for tracking awards spending to ensure they stay within the limit.

• “Aggregate salaries” is defined as the combined annual salaries of all non-SES/SL/ST employees (not including political appointees) on board as of the end of the previous fiscal year.

• The annual limitation applies to any award with an effective date between October 1 and September 30, irrespective of the funding year or source.

• The guidance in the USDA Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) memo, dated August 22, 2018, Subject: “Spending Limitations on Non-Executive Monetary Awards” (attachment A), also covers the Senior Science and Technology Service (SSTS).   
 
Explanation.   The award spending limits in this bulletin apply to awards with effective dates during FY 2019. The effective date reflects the date the approving official makes the award effective, not the date entered in EmpowHR. Award spending will be tracked by the effective date of the award, not the fiscal year in which the award is funded.

Please remember that FY 2019 awards limits include—

• Performance awards based on FY 2018 ratings.

• Individual extra-effort and spot awards for contributions that occurred in FY 2018 that are processed in FY 2019.

Performance awards based on FY 2018 ratings and individual extra-effort and spot awards based on FY 2018 contributions for the last portion of FY 2018 must be approved by the allowance holder and submitted in EmpowHR according to the attached guidance. The documents must be submitted no later than October 12, 2018. Submissions for extra-effort and spot awards for contributions that may occur in FY 2019 must be consistent with the “Nonmeasurable and Measurable Benefits Scale” (attachment B) and received by the FPAC Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO), not later than September 1, 2019.

Recommending and Approving Officials

A. The recommending and approving officials for monetary and nonmonetary awards must be an individual in the employee’s direct supervisory chain of command.

B. The recommending official is the management official in the employee’s direct supervisory chain of command nominating an FPAC employee for an award.

C. The approving official is the management official in the employee’s direct supervisory chain of command who approves the award. The approving official must also be the allowance holder for the organizational unit approving the award. No other FPAC employees have the authority to recommend or approve another FPAC employee for an award. Peer-to-peer awards are specifically prohibited by this policy.

D. An award must not be discussed with an employee until it has been fully vetted and approved by the allowance holder. Funding availability and sufficiency of the award justification will dictate final approved award amount.

Electronic Processing of Awards in EmpowHR

To streamline and improve award processing procedures, all awards will be submitted electronically through use of EmpowHR for processing by the FPAC human resources (HR) staff. The electronic submission of awards (attachment C) eliminates the requirement to submit hardcopy documents for awards for current FPAC employees to the FPAC HR staff email box and will expedite the processing of awards.

Manual Submission of Awards

Manual processing of awards will be used for FPAC employees who have retired, resigned, or transferred to another Federal agency. Awards must be submitted using Form AD 287-2 (attachment D), and the “Justification Template” (attachment E). FPAC HR staff will process awards through the National Finance Center’s Special Pay Processing System (SPPS) for these former FPAC employees.

Guidelines for Writing Award Justifications

The key to a well-written justification is providing the approving official with specific information that illustrates how the performance achievements of the individual or group have clearly exceeded expectations set forth in the employee’s or employees’ performance plans. Attachment F contains guidance for preparing well-written award justifications that illustrates how accomplishments exceed expectations.

Awards Tracking and Reporting

The Associate Chiefs, chief of staff for the Chief, and the regional conservationists are responsible for providing distribution of award allocations to the FPAC HR staff intake email box (PerfCompintake@wdc.usda.gov). This practice ensures consistency and prevents overspending of the awards budget. Allowance holders are responsible for tracking the use of their allocations to ensure they do not exceed their allotted budget for awards.

HR staff will coordinate with the FPAC Office of the Chief Financial Officer to validate award allocation expenditures and provide updates to FPAC leadership.

The FPAC CHCO Office will generate biweekly reports on awards processed in EmpowHR for FPAC leadership and State offices beginning December 17, 2018, for FY 2018 awards. Reports will include awards expenditures by award type.

Allocations for Performance, Extra-Effort, and Spot Awards and Quality Step Increases

FPAC will be limited to no more than 1.5 percent of the aggregate salaries for all GS employees on board as of September 30, 2018, for all GS monetary performance awards, extra effort awards, spot awards, group awards, and recruitment, relocation, and retention incentives. Equity across the agency is important to FPAC. In order to manage spending, FPAC will assign an allocation to the seven organizational units listed below:

• Office of the Chief, to include the Office of the Chief of Staff (Legislative Affairs and Public Affairs Divisions) and regional conservationists’ office staff.
• Associate Chief for Conservation (ACC) (to include ACC chief of staff and office staff, Science and Technology, Soil Science and Resource Assessment Programs, Strategic Natural Resources Initiatives, and Gulf of Mexico Initiative).
• FPAC Deputy Chief (ACO) (to include chief of staff and office staff, and employees of the following areas: Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer, Office of the Chief Procurement and Property Officer, Office of the Chief Information Officer, Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Strategic Planning and Accountability, Enterprise Business Initiatives, and Administrative Enterprise Business Initiatives).
• Regional Conservationist – Northeast
• Regional Conservationist – Southeast
• Regional Conservationist – Central
• Regional Conservationist – West

The Northeast, Southeast, Central, and West Regions are managed by the respective regional conservationists. Funds may not be moved across regions.

FPAC leadership (the Chief and the Associate Chiefs) is responsible for actively participating in the awards spending process for their subordinate offices to ensure awards are fairly and equitably distributed. Each office makes appropriate use of awards for performance ratings and ensures their offices stay within their assigned dollar limitations and that awards are issued expeditiously. Managers and supervisors should work with their subordinate offices to ensure this occurs.

For employees transitioning to the FPAC Business Center, all rating-based awards for contributions that occurred in FY 2018 will be submitted for processing in EmpowHR to the FPAC HR staff not later than October 12, 2018. It is important that rating awards based on FY 2018 performance accomplishments be processed in a timely manner.

Using the award limit identified above by USDA, FPAC designated the following organizational allocations:

Organizational Unit Percent of Salaries Budget Awards Allocation Limit 1.5% of Salaries
Office of the Chief 2% $252,732
Associate Chief for Conservation 11% $1,159,421
FPAC Deputy Chief Operating Officer for Business Services 7% $753,232
Northeast Region 12% $1,291,919
Southeast Region 18% $1,886,124
Central Region 32% $3,342,323
West Region 17% $1,879,135
TOTAL 100.00% $10,469,826

Guidance for Employees Serving on Details

The guidance for processing awards for employees who served on a detail during the FY 2018 performance appraisal period is as follows:

The supervisor for the employee’s detail is responsible for providing written input regarding accomplishments to the supervisor of record not later than September 21, 2018. The supervisor of record for the employee is responsible for submitting the recommendation for an award for an FPAC employee in EmpowHR, and the award will be approved by that supervisor’s chain of command. Only supervisors of record may submit a performance-based award for an FPAC employee. However, leadership that benefitted from the work of the employee on detail may agree to pay for the award from their respective awards allocation. In this case, the award information input into EmpowHR will
need to reflect the accounting code for that organizational unit. This process ensures that award nominations are not submitted by both the detail supervisor and the supervisor of record for the same employee, resulting in duplicate awards for identical accomplishments as outlined in Departmental Directive 4040-451-1, “USDA Employee Awards and Recognition Program.”

Reassignments of FPAC Employees During the FY 2018 Appraisal Period

Performance awards for FPAC employees who were reassigned during the FY 2018 appraisal period will be processed as follows:

The supervisor of record during the last 90 days of the FY 2018 performance appraisal period is responsible for completing the summary rating and preparing any award documentation. Generally, the FPAC office that benefited most from the employee’s contributions and accomplishments during the FY 2018 performance appraisal period will fund the monetary award. Award recommendations should be submitted to the current supervisor of record no later than October 5, 2018.

Any exceptions to the 90-day minimum rating period must be discussed with the FPAC HR staff.

Performance-Based Awards

Eligibility for performance awards based on FY 2018 summary performance ratings is as follows:

• Outstanding.—Award amount must be between 1.5 and 2.4 percent of salary, which includes locality pay.
• Superior.—Award amount must be between 0.5 and 1.4 percent of salary, which includes locality pay.

All award dollar amounts must be rounded to the nearest $100. For example, $1,551 is rounded up to $1,600, but $1,550 and below is rounded down to $1,500.

If the employee’s performance award is based on an appraisal period that is less than 9 months, the award will be prorated according to the table below:

Lengths of Appraisal Period Prorated Award Amount
Less than 3 months Not eligible
3 months to less than 6 months 50%
6 months to less than 9 months 75%

Employees with “Fully Successful” summary ratings are not eligible for performance awards based on their FY 2018 rating but may receive extra-effort, spot, or time-off awards for accomplishments documented in their 2018 rating that exceeded expectations. The monetary value of these awards must be less than what is given to employees with a superior rating in the same grade range.

Quality Step Increase (QSI)

A QSI is an additional within-grade increase used to recognize and reward GS employees at any grade level who have received a summary rating of “Outstanding” for the rating period. Per 5 CFR Part 531, a Federal employee is prohibited from receiving more than one QSI in any 52-week period. (See attachment G.)

The allocation of QSIs are sometimes controlled by OPM or USDA policy on an annual basis. The granting of QSIs should be considered judiciously by supervisors and managers recognizing the cost implications so they can appropriately match the award to the significance and impact of the performance and effectively use agency resources. In granting a QSI, supervisors and managers should carefully consider pay equity and compensation of similarly situated employees, as well as the long-term cost to the organization.



Spot Awards

Spot awards are lump-sum payments that are grossed up to cover applicable taxes that range in award amount from $50 to a maximum of $750. OPM intended spot awards to provide immediate recognition to individual employees who warrant awards for day-to-day extra efforts that support the accomplishment of the agency’s mission. All FPAC GS employees are eligible for spot awards and may receive no more than two spot awards in any one fiscal year, regardless of the monetary value of these awards. The accomplishments associated with a spot award may not be used in annual performance accomplishments and rewarded again through this means as this would be duplication.

In addition, when an FPAC employee receives a spot award, the spot award is not subject to income tax per 5 CFR Part 451. Because these awards are not considered taxable income, FPAC employees receive the full dollar amount of the spot award.

Although spot awards are intended to recognize individual contributions, they may be given for group contributions. However, the award amount for each group member must not exceed $750.

Time-Off Awards

Time-off awards are excused absences from work, without charge to leave or loss of pay, that recognize FPAC employees for extra effort in carrying out assigned duties. Time-off awards may be approved for 1 to 40 hours, based on the significance of the contribution, and the “Nonmeasurable and Measurable Benefits Scale” (see attachment B). All full-time and part-time GS FPAC employees, with the exception of employees on intermittent work schedules, members of the Senior Executive Service (SES), and Senior Level (SL) employees, are eligible for time-off awards. Time-off awards may be granted to FPAC employees only. These awards may not be granted to employees from other USDA agencies, and they may not be transferred from one Federal agency to another Federal agency.

Although time-off awards are intended to recognize individual contributions, they may be given for group contributions as well. Although there is no ceiling on the total amount of any group time-off award, the award amount for each group member must not exceed the maximum allowable limits for individuals.

Nonmonetary Awards and Recognition

OPM regulations state that there is no explicit authority for granting nonmonetary awards. 5 U.S.C. Section 4503, states that the head of an agency may "pay a cash award and incur necessary expense for the honorary recognition" of an employee who makes any of several forms of contribution. 5 CFR Section 451.104(a) states that an agency may grant "a cash, honorary, or informal recognition award, or grant time off" to an employee, as an individual or member of a group, on several bases. In addition, 5 CFR Section 451.102, defines an award as "something bestowed or an action taken." The criteria for honorary and informal recognition awards can be found in Title 360, General Manual, Part 414, “Awards and Recognition.”

Recruitment, Relocation, and Retention Incentives

Recruitment, relocation, and retention incentives are not considered awards, although the funding to pay such incentives is included as part of the awards allocation and budget. Requests for recruitment and relocation incentives must be submitted through the appropriate chain of command, with written justification, to the FPAC CHCO for concurrence. The FPAC CHCO will submit a request for a recruitment or relocation incentive to the FPAC Deputy Chief for final approval. Requests for retention incentives must be submitted through the appropriate chain of command, with written justification, to the FPAC CHCO for concurrence. Once such concurrence is obtained, the FPAC CHCO will forward the request for a retention incentive to the Associate Chief of Operations for approval. The FPAC Deputy Chief Operating Officer for Business Services will forward the request for retention incentive to the USDA Office of Human Resources Management for final approval.

Recruitment, relocation, and retention incentives will be managed to our CY 2010 spending levels. These will be managed at the national level to ensure the agencywide limits are not exceeded and any needed departmental approvals are obtained:

Description CY 2010 Level
Recruitment Incentive $40,799
Relocation Incentive $48,785
Retention Incentive $47,674

Requesting and processing retention incentives must—

• Be submitted in accordance with OPM and departmental policy.
• Include appropriate justification and any other supporting documentation.
• Be submitted through the proper chain of command to the Performance and Compensation Branch at PerfCompintake@wdc.usda.gov. All documents should be scanned and sent by email.

Recruitment and relocation incentive requests must be submitted and approved by the appropriate chain of command before the position is advertised.

Group Awards

Group awards are suitable for unified results and achievements resulting from team effort. When contributions are made by more than one employee or organizational unit, all employees contributing are eligible for a group award. Group awards may be honorary, cash, or a combination of both. If a cash award is granted, the distribution of award amounts may be in equal shares or in different amounts, depending upon individual contributions. Group awards must be submitted electronically through EmpowHR. When submitting group awards in EmpowHR the “Award Request Type” designation must identify the type of group award (e.g., Group Award – SPOT, Group Special Act, Group Time-Off Award).

Approval Authority for Awards Exceeding $5500

Awards exceeding $5,500 Awards exceeding $5,500 per employee require approval from the Secretary of Agriculture. Any award recommendation for an FPAC employee that exceeds $5,500 must be submitted through the appropriate chain of command to the FPAC CHCO and the FPAC Deputy Chief Operating Officer for Business Services for their approval. If approved, the award recommendation will be forwarded by the FPAC CHCO through OHRM to the Secretary for final approval.

In addition, any combination of awards paid to an FPAC employee within a single fiscal year that exceeds $5,500 in the aggregate amount must be submitted through the appropriate chain of command to the FPAC CHCO and FPAC Deputy Chief Operating Officer for Business Services for approval. The FPAC CHCO must review the recommended award to ensure an award over $5,500 in a fiscal year receives the necessary approvals before the award is processed. If approved, the award recommendation will be forwarded by the FPAC CHCO to OHRM for their approval, prior to processing the award for the FPAC employee. At the discretion of OHRM, the award recommendations may be forwarded to the Secretary for approval.
Awards exceeding $10,000 Requires approval by the USDA Assistant Secretary for Administration and the Secretary of Agriculture, with final approval from OPM. Any FPAC employee nominated for an award with a dollar amount in excess of $25,000 requires additional approval from the President of the United States.

Approving and Processing Nonexecutive Awards Across Agency Lines

Consistent with departmental guidance, when an FPAC employee receives a monetary award from another USDA agency or Federal Department and FPAC BC will be processing the award for the employee, the USDA agency or Federal Department providing the award must reimburse FPAC. This requirement may be waived only when FPAC and the USDA agency or Federal Department providing the award to the FPAC employee agree that the administrative costs involved in seeking such reimbursement would be costlier than FPAC paying for it. In cases where the USDA agency or Federal Department providing the award has the ability to process the award for the FPAC employee, they should do so to eliminate the need for reimbursement to FPAC.

In addition, before a monetary or time-off award proposed to be provided to an FPAC employee by another USDA agency or Federal Department may be processed, the FPAC employee’s first- and second-level supervisors must review the proposed award and document their concurrence by signing the Form AD-287-2. First- and second-level supervisors must ensure the recommended award would not result in the employee being recognized more than once for the same accomplishments. The FPAC HR staff also must review the recommended award to ensure that the award, in combination with any previously approved awards, is not in excess of $5,500 in a single fiscal year. If the total dollar amount of the awards for the FPAC employee exceeds $5,500 for the FPAC employee, then the FPAC HR staff must receive the necessary approvals by the FPAC CHCO, the FPAC Deputy Chief, and OHRM.

Records Retention

All awards documentation will be maintained in the agency’s system of records for a period of 4 years. The Standard Form 50, “Notification of Personnel Action,” documenting the employee’s receipt of a monetary award is maintained in the “Performance” folder of the employee’s electronic Official Personnel Folder (eOPF). FPAC offices should maintain file copies of AD-287-2s and related justification documents, in locked file cabinets due to the sensitivity of the information. Award documentation will only be released to individuals with a valid need to know the awards information.

Grievances and Appeals

The granting of (or failure to grant) a monetary or nonmonetary award is at the sole discretion of FPAC management. Therefore, employees may not appeal or grieve decisions to grant or not to grant monetary or nonmonetary recognition or the dollar amount of monetary recognition, unless there is a claim that alleges FPAC management failed to comply with an appropriate provision of a collective bargaining agreement. Formal and informal recognition must comply with ethical and procurement restrictions as specified in departmental and Federal regulations.
 
Contact.  Any questions concerning this national bulletin should be directed to the FPAC HR staff at PerfCompintake@wdc.usda.gov.     
 
 

 /s/

THOMAS W. CHRISTENSEN
Deputy Chief Operating Officer for Business Services, FPAC
and FPAC Deputy Chief, FPAC    
 
 
Attachment A – USDA, CHCO Memo “Spending Limits on Non–Executive Monetary Awards”
Attachment B – Nonmeasurable and Measurable Benefits Scale 
Attachment C – Electronic and Manual Processing of Awards Instructions
Attachment D – Instructions for Completion of Form AD–287–2 (Recommendation and Approval of Award)
Attachment E – Award Justification Template (Manual Awards)
Attachment F – Guidelines for Writing Award Justifications
Attachment G – Quality Step Increase Fact Sheet 
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