NB_360_21_1 - NB 360-21-1 PER - Award Guidance for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 General Schedule (GS) Employees
NB 360-21-1 PER - Award Guidance for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 General Schedule (GS) Employees
National Bulletin: 360-21-1   Date: November 18, 2020
Subject: PER - Award Guidance for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 General Schedule (GS) Employees


Action Required By:   December 31, 2020   
 
Purpose.   To provide supplemental guidance regarding FY 2021 awards, including awards for the FY 2020 performance management cycle ending on September 30, 2020, for all GS employees within NRCS. The cutoff for submission of FY 2020 performance awards is December 31, 2020.     
 
Expiration Date.   September 30, 2021  
 
Background.   FY 2021 Award Guidance for GS Employees memo was provided by the FPAC Business Center (FBC) Human Resources Division on November 8, 2020.
         
 
Explanation.   NRCS is authorized to spend up to 2.5 percent of its aggregate salary for all non-Senior Executive Service (SES / senior level / scientific and professional) monetary performance awards, extra-effort awards, and spot awards.  Within that amount, spending on rating-based awards is capped at 1 percent of the aggregate salaries.  

 

Note: Allowance holders may spend less than the 1-percent cap for FY 2020 rating-based awards and apply more funding toward spot and extra effort awards. 

 

The table below sets the award caps for NRCS.  Individual State caps, provided by the regional conservationists, is attached.  Deputy Chiefs and State conservationists are responsible for managing their budgets to cover the cost of all awards.  

           

AWARDS CAP

FY20 Ratings-based

FY21 Accomplishments

Total

Office of the Chief

$16,900

$25,300

$42,200

Management & Strategy

53,500

80,300

133,800

Programs

133,500

200,300

333,800

Science & Technology

173,200

259,800

433,000

Soil Science & Resource Assessment

466,200

699,300

1,165,500

Regional Conservationist

10,900

16,300

27,200

Regional Conservationist (STC)

94,010

120,200

214,210

Central Region

2,000,000

4,070,765

6,070,765

Northeast Region

993,100

1,489,700

2,482,800

Southeast Region

1,482,000

2,223,000

3,705,000

West Region

1,395,200

2,092,800

3,488,000

               

Performance Awards

 

Eligibility for performance awards based on FY 2020 ratings is as follows: 

 

Outstanding summary rating: 

• Employees in grades GS-11 and above award amount may be up to 3.0 percent of the employee’s salary, which includes locality pay.

• Employees in grades GS-10 and below award amount may be up to 3.5 percent of the employee’s salary, which includes locality pay.

Superior summary rating: 

  
• Employees in grades GS-11 and above award amount may be up to 2.0 percent of the employee’s salary, which includes locality pay.

• Employees in grades GS-10 and below award amount may be up to 2.5 percent of the employee’s salary, which includes locality pay.

Any allowance holder that makes the decision to adjust the listed percentages down must ensure that employees that are rated “Superior” receive less than employees rated “Outstanding” per Office of Personnel Management (OPM) regulation.  Employees with a “Fully Successful” summary rating are not eligible for performance awards based on their FY 2020 rating.  However, they may be considered for extra effort recognition in the form of either a cash or time-off award.

 

If the employee’s performance award is based on an appraisal period that is less than 9 months, the award will be prorated as indicated below.

 

Lengths of appraisal period prorated award amount:

• Less than 3 months—Not eligible
• 3 months to less than 6 months—50 percent
• 6 months to less than 9 months—75 percent

  

FY 2021 awards limits include—

• Performance awards based on FY 2020 ratings. Performance awards justification will be included on the awards submission form in EmpowHR indicating that this is a rating-based award for Superior or Outstanding performance in FY 2020. Rating-based awards entered in EmpowHR do not require Form AD-287-2, “Recommendation and Approval of Awards.”

• Individual extra effort and spot awards for contributions that occurred in FY 2020 and FY 2021 that are processed in FY 2021.

• Purchase of nonmonetary awards are included in the 1.5 percent, excluding time off awards.

 

NOTE:  Additional documentation for rating-based awards (those based on Outstanding or Superior ratings) is not required.  Enter the following statement in EmpowHR as documentation for the rating-based awards: “This is a ratings-based award for fiscal year 2020, for a performance rating of Outstanding/Superior” (select one).

All other awards, including QSI, require a justification.

 

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

 

Awards exceeding $5,500 must be approved by the Secretary of Agriculture in accordance with the guidance outlined in the next section.

 

Approval Authority for Awards Exceeding $5,500

 

Awards exceeding $5,500 per employee require approval from the Secretary of Agriculture.  Award recommendations for an FPAC employee that exceeds $5,500 must be submitted through the appropriate chain of command to the FPAC Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) and FBC Chief Operating Officer for their review and approved by the Under Secretary.  If approved, the award recommendation will be forwarded by the FPAC CHCO through the USDA Office of Human Resources Management to the Secretary for final approval.

 

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.

 

QSIs for the 2020 rating cycle are limited to no more than 2 percent of nonexecutive employees on board as of September 30, 2019.  A total of 157 QSIs are available for State-level staff and 17 QSIs are available for National Headquarters (NHQ) staff.  The Regional Conservationists Office will allocate QSIs to each State.  All NHQ QSI recommendations must be supported by the applicable deputy chief or regional conservationist and approved by the Associate Chief.

 

Spot Awards

 

Spot awards are lump-sum payments 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.  In addition, OPM regulations permit the "grossing up" of spot awards to cover applicable taxes.  All  FPAC GS employees are generally eligible for spot awards.  More than one spot award can be given during the performance year.

 

Although spot awards are intended to recognize individual contributions, they may be given for group contributions; however, the overall award amount for each group member must not exceed $750. Spot awards require first-level supervisor approval, if the approver is not the first-level supervisor.

 

Nonmonetary Awards and Recognition

 

OPM regulations indicate there is no explicit authority for granting nonmonetary awards.  Title

5, U.S.C. Section 4503 indicates 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.  Title 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."  Nonmonetary awards require first-level supervisor approval, if the approver is not the first-level supervisor. 

 
Contact.   <Please direct questions to Bart Huber, Program and Management Analyst, at Bart.Huber@usda.gov.    
 
 

 /s/

LOUIS ASPEY
Deputy Chief for Management and Strategy
 
Attachment – FY 2021 State Awards Caps
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