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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, August 24, 2001

Federal workers to get windfall soon

By Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writer

About 25,000 current and former federal government employees here are expected to receive up to $20,000 each this fall as part of a settlement to a long dispute over cost-of-living allowances.

White collar civilian federal workers here and in Alaska, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands will receive a total of $232 million to settle their claim that the allowances, known as COLAs, paid out between 1990 and 1998 were too low.

A series of lawsuits over the issue was settled last August in U.S. District Court in the Virgin Islands.

Eligible workers here, such as postal workers, FBI agents and court clerks, began receiving verification notices this week.

"This is a big magnitude, covering eight years, and I'm sure the state of Hawai'i is happy," said Dean Hoe of the O'ahu Defense COLA Committee, a group of federal employees tracking the issue. "I'm happy with the settlement, and we're looking at the mechanism to get the money to us as soon as possible."

The committee estimates that Hawai'i workers could receive as much as $80 million total.

Federal COLA rates are based on the cost difference between goods and services in Washington, D.C., and the area covered by the COLA.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit had contended that such methodology was faulty for remote locations because it failed to consider other factors, such as the costs of travel to visit relatives and obtain quality medical care and education.

COLAs now boost federal employees' pay 25 percent on O'ahu, 23.75 percent on Maui, 23.5 percent on Kaua'i, and 16.5 percent on the Big Island.

Reach Johnny Brannon at 535-2431 or jbrannon@honoluluadvertiser.com