Per diem rates to go unchanged in fiscal 2015

Friday - 8/15/2014, 9:07am EDT

Federal employees on business travel next year will not have more money to spend on hotels and meals.

The General Services Administration announced Friday in the Federal Register that the per diem rates for fiscal 2015 will not change from 2014.

"The standard lodging per diem rate will remain at $83," GSA stated in the notice, which goes into effect Oct. 1. "The meals and incidental expense tiers also remain unchanged for FY 2014 and range from $46 to $71."

GSA raised the per diem rates this year from 2013 levels. That came after the agency froze the 2013 rates at 2012 amounts.

The decision to freeze 2013 rates came as part of the Obama administration's requirement to cut federal travel costs by 30 percent in 2012.

GSA also asked for private sector and other expert input for how best to reduce federal travel costs.

In February, it started a competition offering $35,000 for a technology-based approach to identify ways for the agency to reduce travel costs. Once it's approved at GSA, the developer must be able to provide it to all other agencies.

GSA awarded the $35,000 grand prize in May to Gregg Parrish, a developer in New York. He created an app to analyze expenses and compare prices, in order to suggest less expensive regional options; and a portal to connect travelers with resources and information to find inexpensive and reliable travel arrangements.

In all, GSA received 14 entries for the contest.

There are some changes to the 2015 government per diem rules.

GSA identified two new non-standard areas (NSAs): Kayenta, Arizona, and San Angelo, Texas. This means federal employees receive more than the average per diem if they travel to these areas.

In 2014, there are 400 non-standard areas in the United States. GSA also removed about 29 U.S.-based cities and counties from the NSA list last year.

Additionally, GSA said it is combining some locations into larger non-standard areas. For example, GSA said it would no longer list the boroughs of New York City separately, and now will just have one per diem rate for the entire city.

The per diem update comes on the heels of GSA awarding eight contracts for air travel under the City Pairs program.

GSA said under this new deal, airfare rates are pre-negotiated and firm-fixed-price for a year offering a 23 percent discount below corporate benchmark fares.

Employees will have access to more than 7,800 markets through the program, which is up 55 percent since 2013. The new rates go into effect Oct. 1.

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