I was horrified to learn today that my husband's paycheck is under assault. Here's how (the simplified version).
Federal employees' salaries are made up of different pieces. For example, my husband has a "base" salary, which you can find here (very first page). He was hired as a 5, and is still a 5, so that gives you a general idea of what this single-income, four-person family is looking at in terms of base salary.
On that same page, you can see that federal employees also get, above and beyond their "base" salary, what is called "locality" pay. Locality pay is a percentage of their base salary. Thus, if you're a new State hire and you come in at the first Step of 5, your "base" pay is $42,948. If you're in Washington DC, you also get 24.22% added on as your "locality" pay. (And trust me, that doesn't even *touch* how expensive it is to live here.)
It used to be that, when stationed overseas, State Department Foreign Service folks didn't get any "locality" pay. I mean, even a quick glance at that locality chart shows you no foreign city names, right? But then, a few years ago, the government slowly began phasing in a plan to eventually give Foreign Service folks stationed overseas "locality" pay equal to Washington DC's. It's being phased in slowly.
Now, as part and parcel with the proposed Continuing Resolution HR1 (so as to try to get some sort of federal budget together?), which has already passed the House, this locality pay for overseas employees (but ONLY overseas State Department employees! Other Departments like FBI and ICE folks overseas have ALWAYS gotten locality pay while overseas!) would be GONE.
I spent a while this afternoon calling my two Senators in my home state (and I also followed up with heartfelt emails) begging them to not let this happen to my family. Because what would happen to my family is that, when we went to China, my husband would literally lose 24% of his salary overnight.
We are a one-income family. With two children. You have already seen my husband's base pay range. We're not wealthy. We can't afford to lose my husband's locality pay when we go overseas.
Are you with State? Are you not, but feel badly for us? Call and/or write your home state's two Senators (it's actually super easy to do it online). Tell them not to let Foreign Service employees who are overseas get their paychecks effetively cut by 24%. Tell them not to let HR1 do that to us.
[Articles about this can be found here and here.]
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In other news - guess what today is!?
Today is my exact halfway mark in my Mandarin Chinese class at FSI! WooHoo! I am halfway done!
Just in case anyone wants to know where a 32 week class to a 2/1 in Mandarin is at their halfway mark, I give you the following:
One of our textbooks is:
(Hey Jill, notice the bag?) :)
The chapter we're on right now is:
This chapter is about, like, birthday parties and stuff. Which is FAR superior to last chapter, which was giving people directions. Since I don't even even do that in English, I had NO desire or motivation to learn how to do that in Chinese. I literally learned how to say in Chinese: If you want to go from (Point A) to (Point B)...give my husband a phone call!
So that's one of our millions of textbooks. Another one is our Reading textbook:
Complete with my notes and highlighting. See, Becky? The left-hand side of the page is in Traditional Characters (and I therefore pay it no mind), and the right-had side of the page is in Simplified.
This Friday, as in just a couple of days from now, I have my Mandarin Progress Test. You have it when you're halfway through your class.
This scares the ever-living CRAP out of me for many reasons.
One of which is because I saw the nuclear fallout of what happened to folks in James' Mandarin cohort (two months ahead of mine) when they didn't pass their progress tests. Let's just sum it all up with: utter pain, agony, and suffering. Complete with emails to post and CDOs and God and stuff. It's ugly, y'all, and I don't want it to come near me.
Another of which is because I'm not too terribly awful at reading, but I am downright HORRIBLE at speaking. Which is super bad, because I'm supposed to be lopsided in *favor* of speaking, not against it. I'm supposed to get a 2/1, which is a 2 in speaking and a 1 in reading, but I swear to you guys that when this is all said and done and the dust clears, I'll have a 0+ in speaking and a 2 in reading: a 0+/2 instead of a 2/1. James says I'm being silly, but there you go. HENCE: FEAR.
[Note to all y'all well-intentioned souls who would say to me Don't worry about it! You're "Just a Wife!" You don't have to score a certain way anyway!... YES, I DO, IF I EVER WANT TO HAVE A JOB. IF I EVER WANT A JOB, I *HAVE* TO GET A 2 IN SPEAKING. But that's a different blog post for a different day.]
Which means I should be studying! But with the whole money thing and the whole Chinese halfway mark thing, I just really had to blog.
Closing on a cute note:
Squirrel paw tracks in the snow yesterday. That was probably our last snow of the season. Just a light dusting on the ground, but oh so cute!
Now please go call or email your Senator!