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Just in time for the new year, many U.S. civilian employees in Germany will see a 20-percent increase in the rate used to calculate their cost-of-living allowance, according to the U.S. State Department.

The rate increase, which went into effect Dec. 10, will plump up paychecks by about $2 a day for the lowest-paid employees and by about $11 a day for the highest-paid.

Most U.S. civilian employees in other European countries, meanwhile, will not get an increase in their cost-of-living allowance, known as post allowance. The allowance is paid to government employees assigned to work in areas with cost-of-living expenses that are higher than those in Washington, D.C.

In most areas of Germany, post allowance is now at a level not seen in at least a decade, according to U.S. State Department data going back to January 1997. The department was unable to confirm whether the new rates are all-time highs.

A recent drop in the value of the U.S. dollar compared with the euro triggered the rate increase, said Joyce M. McNeil, who reviews and approves analyses of the post allowance rates in Western Europe. “But it’s right on the cusp — it could go up or down on a biweekly basis,” she said.

Baumholder, Friedberg, Heidelberg, Kaiserslautern, Stuttgart and Wiesbaden are among the more than three dozen German communities affected by the increase.

For civilian employees who have one dependent and make between $48,000 and $50,999 a year, the allowance is now $27.73 per day, a rate equal to $10,122 per year. Civilians who have four dependents and make between $30,000 and $32,999 in annual salary will see their post allowance increase to $31.92 per day, a rate equal to $11,650 per year.

Understandably, U.S. civilians in other parts of Europe — especially those which use the euro — are feeling left out.

A surprised Mike Carrancho said he was disheartened to learn that the post allowance was unchanged for Italy-based residents.

“Oh really? It doesn’t make a lot of sense. We all use the same currency,” said the engineer with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command in Naples, Italy. “I think we have the same cost-of-living issues here as they do in Germany. We all face the same expenses. Fuel is expensive, electricity is expensive, and we’re just as impacted by the cost."

Well, said the U.S. State Department’s McNeil, “It just doesn’t work that way.”

Other factors, such as the amount of shopping done on the local economy and the cost of certain products, also influence post allowance, she said. Depending on the data the State Department has on a specific location, a change in the exchange rate may or may not trigger a post-allowance increase, said McNeil.

In the United Kingdom, post allowance rates at many posts, including RAF Mildenhall and Lakenheath, are far below the rates in Germany despite a $2-to-a-British pound exchange rate.

“It would be nice to see ours go up, too,” RAF Mildenhall library director Evita Siebert said.

Co-worker Amanda Parker said the rising pound is a big factor in the need for a greater COLA.

“Since the pound is now $2, I think it (COLA) should go up, too,” she said. “We definitely shop on base for anything we need since it’s so expensive now.”

McNeil said the post allowance rates in the U.K. are likely based on older living pattern surveys than those used to calculate the allowance in Germany, and new survey results could result in a dramatic increase in post allowance there. Those results are due later this month.

Go to www.state.gov/m/a/als/920/ for a complete list of post allowance rates.

Sandra Jontz in Naples, Italy, and Bryan Mitchell at RAF Mildenhall, England, contributed to this story.

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