JEFFERSON CITY — Some state National Guard members have had to wait nearly a month to get paid for responding to Missouri emergencies.
Guard members receive federal pay during their regular weekend training and when sent to other states, such as those sent to Louisiana earlier this month because of Hurricane Gustav.
But when the governor activates the Guard to help with disasters in Missouri, those soldiers are paid through the state payroll system. The state payroll is done in two-week increments with the paycheck covering one cycle behind for accounting purposes. So work done for the first two weeks of the month is paid at the end of that month. And work done in the second half of the month is paid in the middle of the following month.
Missouri Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Matt Jenkins said the state pay lag has been a hardship for some Guard members who are called away from civilian jobs and then go weeks between pay periods. He said the spate of Missouri weather emergencies has made the delay more significant because troops are being activated more frequently.
The lag "has been that way for a good while, but we're seeing more natural disasters and getting called out more," Jenkins said. "The heat, the ice storms, it's just been a bad year."
Jenkins estimated that Guard troops responding to federal emergencies and receiving their pay from the federal government wait at most 10 days before getting their paychecks.
Starting in November 2000, the state payroll shifted so that employees are paid one pay cycle behind. Before then, state workers were paid for work in the first half of a month at the midway point. But it was impossible to verify they were being properly paid until after the check had been issued.
Deputy Administration Commissioner Mark A. Kaiser said most employers pay a cycle behind. He said the current payroll system allows for better accounting, fewer payroll errors, better tracking of paid leave and easier verification that an employee is paid for the hours that they worked.
"It brought us in line with the rest of the world, and there were much fewer corrections," Kaiser said.