Federal civilian workers in Europe get hike in post, living quarters allowances
Stars and Stripes December 3, 2004
Federal civilian employees living in Europe will soon see a bump in their post allowance and living-quarters allowance, the U.S. State Department announced this week.
The post allowance — similar to the military’s cost-of-living adjustment — paid to federal civilian employees living in Germany, for example, was increased by 20 percent and became effective Nov. 28.
The post allowance, which takes into account the price of goods and services purchased off-base, was increased largely due to the dollar’s slide against the euro, according to an official at the State Department, which calculates the allowances for overseas civilians. One euro currently costs about $1.33. Euros are used to buy goods and services in most European countries.
As a result of the rate increase, a government civilian living in Germany who earns $42,000-$45,000 a year will see his annual stipend go from $6,475 to $7,770, or about $50 every two weeks.
Especially hard hit by the dollar’s decline have been those who do not receive a living-quarters allowance — commonly called a housing allowance — such as people hired locally, who, therefore, have to pay their rent and utilities out of pocket.
They include Brett Harwood, artistic director of the Kelley Theater in Stuttgart, Germany, who goes to the bank every month to buy 1,200 euros to pay his rent. Back in April, when one euro cost about $1.20, that meant spending $1,440; this month Harwood’s rent will be closer to $1,600.
“It doesn’t feel in any way like the post allowance covers the amount you put out for rent alone, let alone food,” Harwood said. “It makes going out to a nice restaurant a thing of the past.”
Andy Rivera, adjutant for the 6th Area Support Group, also doesn’t receive a housing allowance.
“It’s a challenge,” Rivera said. “I’m fortunate in that I’m debt-free. My car is paid off and I don’t have outstanding loans. [I’m] one of those lucky people who doesn’t have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck.
“But not long ago, when I had car payment and other stuff to pay, I would monitor that stuff. You start looking for where the money comes from.”
Affecting the allowance are the cost of goods and services outside of a base as compared with the cost of similar goods and services in Washington, D.C. Accessibility to on-base shopping is also a factor, according to the State Department official.
Employees who receive living-quarters allowances, though, got some relief with an increase, also effective Nov. 28, in that stipend. A Heidelberg, Germany-based civilian employee with a family, for example, would see an annual increase in LQA from $38,700 to $39,700.
The increase in civilian allowances came days after it was announced that U.S. troops living in Europe would see a 31 percent increase in their cost-of-living allowance.