Thousands to get first installment of their retroactive wages today

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ST. THOMAS — Thousands of government workers will be getting a long-awaited paycheck today — the first piece of their retroactive wages.

Between 1989 and 2002, the government negotiated salary increases that never were honored for some collective bargaining units. In 2007, legislation established the Retroactive Wage Commission to determine exactly who was owed how much.

After three years of reviewing more than 1 million paper documents, the commission determined that 10,718 past and present government employees were owed $219 million in retro pay. Personnel Director Kenneth Hermon Jr. — who serves as chairman of the Retroactive Wage Commission — said the least amount owed to an individual is $6.58 and the most owed is $193,000.

Retired employees will get their checks in the mail today.  Hermon personally delivered the retro checks for retirees to the central post offices on St. Thomas and St. Croix on Wednesday.

He said if he had simply put them in the mail, they would have had to go to Puerto Rico and back. Instead, he sent them bulk mail, and delivered them directly to the post office for distribution. Retirees should get their checks in their post office boxes by 1 p.m. today. Home delivery may take longer, he said.

Active employees will get their checks the same way they normally do, as either a direct-deposit or hard copy. Hermon said if the employee banks with Banco Popular, the bank the government uses, the checks should clear at 2 a.m. today. Other banks may take longer but should show up in the employees’ accounts today.

Inactive employees — people who have left government service for any reason — must wait until Monday to start the process to get their checks. Inactive employees must contact the Division of Personnel to verify their mailing address and provide a valid photo ID such as a voter registration card, passport or drivers license. Once that process is complete, they can pick up their checks or have them mailed. The process can be done through the mail or by e-mail if the employee no longer is in the territory.

Families of deceased workers who are owed retroactive wages are entitled to the retro pay, but they must complete a different process to get the check. Family members must fill out an affidavit — which is available on the Personnel website or at the division’s offices — and provide supporting documentation, such as a death, marriage or birth certificate and a valid photo ID. The law requires that they then must wait 30 days before the check can be released.

Families of deceased employees can receive only as much as $5,000. If the retro amount owed is more than that, the family must go through the probate process to receive the balance.

An employee owed retro wages may not send someone else to pick up their check unless a limited power of attorney has been drafted and notarized for the purpose, Hermon said.

Hermon said the V.I. Finance Department printed 10,100 checks this week for retirees and active and inactive employees. “The highest amount they saw printed was $20,000, so tomorrow, someone will be getting a check for $20,000,” Hermon said Wednesday.

The Retroactive Wage Commission had a set amount of money to use to pay the retro — $45 million from the Insurance Guaranty Fund — so they developed a formula that would allow everyone owed money to at least get a portion of it right away. The commission voted to pay everyone 16.7
percent of the total amount owed.

People eligible for retro pay may log into to obtain a complete retro statement that will detail what they are owed and how much they will be receiving as part of the 16.7 percent payment.

If active employees have problems with their retro checks, they should contact their agency’s human resources department. Retirees and inactive employees can contact the Division of Personnel.

“The key thing here is don’t panic, you waited too long to allow minor hiccups to get you flustered,” Hermon said.

For more information, contact the Division of Personnel at 774-8588 on St. Thomas and St. John or 718-0341 on St. Croix.


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