The U.S. Government pays cost-of-living allowances (COLAs) to white-collar civilian Federal employees in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Approximately 49,000 employees, including U.S. Postal Service employees, receive these COLAs. Section 5941 of title 5, United States Code, and Executive Order 10000 (as amended) authorize the payment of COLAs in nonforeign areas.
To set the COLA rates, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) surveys the prices of over 300 items, including goods and services, housing, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses. OPM conducts these surveys in each of the COLA areas and in the Washington, DC, area.