By Adam Andrzejewski
With the stroke of his pen Thursday, President Joe Biden signed legislation giving millions of federal employees Friday off to celebrate Saturday’s new federal holiday, Juneteenth.
This makes 44 paid days off for the average federal employee annually, which is nearly nine full weeks of paid-time off each year.
Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19 to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. The Civil War was America’s bloodiest with 752,000 to 861,000 soldiers dying on the battlefield. 49 states had already recognized Juneteenth as a holiday (South Dakota is the only holdout).
On Wednesday, the U.S. House passed the bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, after the U.S. Senate passed it the day before.
Signing it into law on Thursday, Biden made Juneteenth – observed this year on Friday, June 18 — a federal holiday for which “most” federal employees will have off.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management tweeted Thursday that in observance of the federal holiday, “most federal employees will observe the holiday tomorrow, June 18”— since the 19th falls on Saturday this year.
There are about 2.1 million civilian federal employees, another 1.3 million active-duty military personnel, and more than 500,000 postal service employees.
Before Thursday, federal employees received pay for 10 federal holidays, 13 sick days and 20 vacation days per year on average. Our auditors at OpenTheBook.com estimate these benefits cost taxpayers $22.6 billion annually.
Add in the new 11th federal holiday and that figure increases.
However, Congress isn’t finished trying to add to the number of federal holidays. The estimated taxpayer cost for each federal holiday is $818 million – and that’s just within the executive agencies, not including the military or U.S. Post Office.
Already this year, the U.S. House passed H.R. 1, For The People Act, which among other things, would add Election Day as yet another paid holiday every two years for congressional and presidential election years. It has a $4 billion cost over ten years, but the Senate has yet to vote on it.
In March, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 included a new, half-billion dollar perk. Federal employees with kids out of school are eligible for $1,400 per week for 15 weeks ($21,000) to stay home. A new $570 million account at Treasury was established to fund the benefit.
Last year, one million federal bureaucrats were paid $1.1 billion in performance bonuses. In 78 of the largest federal agencies, the average salary is $100,000 or more.
Is this France?
For the new Juneteenth holiday, it’s unclear which federal employees get Friday off this year, as the holiday was rushed into existence. Workers took to Twitter to ask the Office of Personnel Management to clarify its tweet.
But, here’s what is clear: new federal holidays cost U.S. taxpayers more money as they fund an increasingly generous day-off package for federal employees.