Traveling feds to get lower reimbursements
The federal government will shell out less money to employees traveling to Washington and most metropolitan areas on official business starting in October, according to new figures.
The General Services Administration, which handles most purchases for government agencies, sets the standard daily travel reimbursement rate at $123 -- $77 for lodging and $46 for meals and incidentals. But about 400 "Non-Standard Areas" -- mostly major metropolitan cities and counties -- have higher rates based on a formula generated by GSA in consultation with the lodging industry that accounts for rental rates, time of year and property value.
Depending on the time of year, daily reimbursement rates for travel to Washington plus meals and other incidentals will drop between $18 and $36 per day starting in October with the new fiscal year, according to GSA (Review the Excel document). The lower rates appear to reflect weakened hotel prices due to the slumping economy.
Federal employees who travel for work keep close tabs on the varying reimbursement rates and often complain that they're forced to subsidize official travel out of pocket because the rates don't always cover all expenses. Washington's lodging industry also track the rate since it effectively sets a number above which a hotel would price itself out of business from traveling feds.
For example, hotel reimbursement rates in Washington this month are $170 and $229 next month, plus $71 a day for meals and incidentals. But in fiscal 2011 the room reimbursement rate will drop to $157 in August and $211 in September (the meal rate will stay the same).
By comparison, feds traveling to New York City can expect combined hotel and meal reimbursements between $262 and $340, a drop during most months. Feds headed to Las Vegas -- a popular convention destination -- will receive $164 in reimbursements -- about a $20 decline. And federal officials visiting New Orleans -- a popular destination for hurricane and BP oil spill-related issues -- can expect reimbursements between $169 and $202, a slight drop from this year.
Researcher Eric Yoder contributed to this report.
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