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Updated Per Diem Gives Federal Employees More Wiggle Room

By / Aug 17, 2015 (Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock)

The General Services Administration’s new travel per diem rates, which take effect in October, offer up the first significant revamp of meal expenses since the 1980s and raise the nightly room allowances by a few dollars. A key hotel-industry group welcomed the changes.

Federal employees looking to head to an upcoming conference just gained a bit of extra flexibility.

On Friday, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced new per diem rates for the 2016 fiscal year, which begins in October. The rates include increases for lodging (with the starting point for lodging now at $89 per night, up from the previous $83) and meals and incidental expenses (with the starting rate up to $51, an increase from the current $46)—the latter change stemming from the first in-depth review of meal expenses since the 1980s.

“GSA developed a new methodology and conducted a pilot, and determined that a change would continue to provide fair reimbursement to employees as well as save future taxpayer dollars as compared to using the previous methodology,” the agency’s Christine Harada wrote of the updated meals per diem.

The rates were analyzed with the help of the Government-wide Travel Advisory Committee—a group that includes officials from the travel industry, federal travel experts, and travel managers for large corporations. The group’s recommendations were instrumental in the increased per diems.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) welcomed the increases, while also expressing approval of changes in the way the GSA will review the standard rate for per diems in the continental U.S.—shifting from every three years to annually.

“This significant shift will ensure that rates align with economic conditions while also providing value for government travelers,” AH&LA President and CEO Katherine Lugar said in a news release. “We look forward to collaborating closely with the GSA and others to ensure that government travel rates remain fair to taxpayers, government workers and the travel industry.”

Some of the rule shifts, however, may have a negative effect on a few local communities. While there are 400 non-standard areas for which federal employees receive slightly larger per diems, 15 former NSAs lost that status for the 2016 fiscal year, including three metro areas in Virginia. Those looking to find the rates for a local area can search on the GSA website.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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