Biden unveils civilian pay raise plans
President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced plans to give civilian federal employees a pay raise in 2023, consistent with the increases he proposed in his budget.
In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Biden said there would be an overall average increase of 4.6% for civilian federal employees starting Jan. 1.
"Specifically, I have determined that for 2023, the across-the-board base pay increase will be 4.1 percent and locality pay increases will average 0.5 percent, resulting in an overall average increase of 4.6 percent for civilian Federal employees," Biden wrote.
He cited recruitment and retention challenges for federal positions as part of the reason. The new pay plan, he added, would allow the federal government to better compete with the private sector.
"Multiple years of lower pay raises for Federal civilian employees than called for under regular law have resulted in a substantial pay gap for Federal employees compared to the private sector," Biden wrote. "The American people rely on Federal agencies being managed and staffed by skilled, talented, and engaged employees, including those possessing critical skills sets, which requires keeping Federal pay competitive."
The raise would apply to some 2.1 million executive branch employees, although not to the more than 600,000 employees of the U.S. Postal Service, whose raises are set through collective bargaining.
Leaks ground Army's Chinook copters
WASHINGTON -- The Army has grounded its fleet of about 400 Chinook cargo helicopters after fuel leaks caused a "small number" of engine fires.
Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said Tuesday the Army has identified the cause of the leaks and is working to resolve the problem. She said some aircraft may not require the fix and may be able to return to flight soon.
The fleet was grounded last weekend. Smith said there were no injuries or deaths associated with the fires but the Army grounded the fleet out of an abundance of caution.
The Chinook is the Army's key heavy-lift helicopter, used to transport troops and equipment, and was a familiar sight in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Migrant arrivals rise sharply in Florida
MIAMI -- Border Patrol agents assigned to the Florida Keys have taken into custody as many as 150 people from Cuba in the past week as the migrant exodus is on track to reach a seven-year high.
Since Oct. 1, the Border Patrol has responded to more than 216 landings in the Keys and encountered more than 3,000 migrants from both Cuba and Haiti, Walter Slosar, chief Border Patrol agent for South Florida, said Tuesday.
In that same time frame, the U.S. Coast Guard has stopped 4,822 Cubans along the Florida Straits, the service said Monday after saying it had just returned 30 people to Cuba who were intercepted at sea during several interdictions since Friday.
The Coast Guard said that's the highest number of people from Cuba caught migrating by boat to Florida since fiscal 2017, when 5,396 Cuban migrants were caught along the Straits fleeing their homeland.
Numbers dwindled to just under 50 people in fiscal 2020 because of the end of "wet-foot, dry-foot," the U.S. policy that served as an incentive to people hoping to flee Cuba because it allowed those who reached the country to stay and apply for permanent residency after a year. Those caught on the ocean were returned to Cuba.
Migrant activity over the past two years has ramped back up dramatically, however, because political and economic conditions in Cuba continue to deteriorate.
States to get extra monkeypox vaccine
WASHINGTON -- The Biden administration has announced a new plan to send extra doses of monkeypox vaccine to states for use at events or sites that can reach more people of color and others who have lacked access to shots.
The program will offer 10,000 vials of vaccine, or as many as 50,000 doses, that can be distributed by local officials to five venues. Officials said Tuesday the doses are meant for people who might struggle to find appointments or worry about the stigma of attending public vaccination events.
The announcement served as a reminder that even as cases have decreased in some large cities, the nation's inoculation campaign has lagged in getting vaccines to people who might be especially vulnerable. The disease has spread primarily among men who have sex with men.
A majority of confirmed monkeypox infections in recent weeks have been in Black and Hispanic people, but they have received disproportionately fewer vaccine doses.
"The way that you build confidence is by really making vaccine accessible," said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the White House's deputy monkeypox coordinator. "Our next chapter here is not about vaccine hesitance, but about vaccine confidence, and making sure that we build in systems that really improve equity and make sure vaccines are getting not only in arms but in arms of people who really need it."