This article by Jim Absher first appeared on Military.com, the premier resource for the military and veteran community.
The Department of Defense has announced the 2020 Continental United States (CONUS) Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) rates.
The number of service members receiving the pay in 2020 will be declining by approximately 21% from 2019, and most members will see a decrease in the amount they get each month.
CONUS COLA is different than Outside Continental United States (OCONUS) COLA because it is a taxable pay rather than a non-taxable allowance. Also unlike OCONUS COLA, it only changes once each year, rather than monthly, and is based on the cost-of-living rather than fluctuations in exchange rates between the U.S. dollar and foreign currencies.
CONUS COLA is paid to military members stationed in high-cost areas in the US. The rate varies by geographic location, rank, years of service, and dependency status.
[RELATED AT MILITARY.COM: Frequently Asked Questions About CONUS COLA]
CONUS COLA also differs from the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) because it considers the costs-of-living that are unrelated to housing costs when computing the amount. CONUS COLA can also be paid to service members living in base housing, in barracks, or onboard ships.
2020 CONUS COLA Changes
In 2020 about $20.2 million will be paid to about 12,300 service members stationed CONUS -- $1.9 million less than in 2019, according to the Pentagon. About 3,800 members will now receive CONUS COLA; 3,300 will see an increase in their CONUS COLA payments; 4,100 members will see a decrease; 6,400 members will no longer receive CONUS COLA; and 1,100 will see no change, they said in a release.
There will be eight new military housing areas eligible for CONUS COLA: Fresno, Marin/Sonoma, Sacramento, Stockton in California; New Haven/Bridgeport, Connecticut; Nantucket, Massachusetts; St. Joseph, Missouri; and Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Several areas will also fall off the list in 2020. Bridgeport, California; Boston and Essex County, Massachusetts; Columbia and Jefferson City, Missouri; West Point and Westchester County, New York; and Willow Grove, Pennsylvania will no longer get CONUS COLA in 2020.
Remaining recipients will see slight changes to their payments for the upcoming year.
CONUS COLA monthly payments range from $32 to $60 month for members with dependents and $22 to $45 monthly for those without dependents.
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