Deployed FEMA responders will receive new job protections now, after much-hailed reform

President Biden is virtually briefed by Federal Emergency Management Agency officials on preparations for Hurricane Ida in August 2021.

President Biden is virtually briefed by Federal Emergency Management Agency officials on preparations for Hurricane Ida in August 2021. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Officials say the change will help retain key personnel and avoid staffing crises.

Federal emergency responders who leave their day jobs to address disasters will soon have the same protections as members of the armed forces deployed to active duty, with Congress on Wednesday sending a long sought after reform to President Biden’s desk.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has beseeched lawmakers to pass legislation like the Civilian Reservist Emergency Workforce (CREW) Act (S. 2293) to help it address critical staffing shortages and a recent wave of departures. Reservists are only paid while deployed to a disaster and the lack of protections they receive for their full-time jobs makes it difficult for the agency to recruit and retain the temporary personnel. FEMA employs more than 12,000 reservists who have been stretched thin due to not only hurricanes and wildfires, but also FEMA's obligations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It is the heartbeat of what we do for disasters,” FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell told a House committee earlier this year when asking for the legislation. “It is the majority of our staff that surge in when an incident happens to support local communities.”

The measure would ensure FEMA reservists receive job protections even if they are unable to give notice before deploying to a disaster response. The House passed the bill on Wednesday in a 387-38 vote after the Senate approved it unanimously last year. 

“FEMA Reservists serve as an essential part of our federal response to everything from hurricanes, flooding, or wildfires to public health crises,” said Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who introduced the measure. “They should never have to worry about losing their livelihoods when called up to serve.”

FEMA has slowly grown its non-career workforce in recent years, but current and former officials, stakeholders and employees themselves have raised concerns about insufficient resources given current demands. In the 1960s, for example, the United States declared an average of 18 major disasters per year. The emergency response agency responded to 104 such disasters in 2020 and 58 last year. Its capacity to quickly deploy around the country and handle logistics has also led it to take on various other projects in recent administrations, such as helping with an uptick of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, the resettling of Afghan evacuees and the COVID-19 pandemic response. Lawmakers and experts have cautioned the increased workload has led to more turnover—and less experience—throughout the agency.

FEMA employees previously sounded the alarm on their lack of down time between deployments, warning of burnout as the agency no longer experiences a true offseason. One FEMA reservist recently told Government Executive new hires were receiving insufficient training—just two-to-three days, virtually—before being sent out to disasters. Some employees were working 12-hour days for a month straight, he said. A former reservist who recently left the agency said she and her colleagues were taken for granted, with few people in the agency looking out for reservists' interests. The lack of protections led many people to leave, she said, and the frontline nature of their jobs caused them to be unfairly scapegoated when things went wrong. 

“We have to take the punishment,” the former reservist said.

Lawmakers said their bill would help alleviate some of that pressure. 

“This bipartisan legislation will protect FEMA reservists and ensure they do not have to choose between their careers and responding to a disaster,” said Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y. 

Criswell told lawmakers in June she is prioritizing the mental health of her workforce and has requested additional funds in the agency’s fiscal 2023 budget to expand those initiatives. She added FEMA officials are in the midst of conducting a comprehensive review of the agency's staffing needs to determine how to better structure the workforce in light of growing demands.

This article was published first on GovExec, a FederalSoup partner site ("Deployed FEMA Responders Will Receive New Job Protections Now That Congress Has Passed Much Hailed Reform.") 

NEXT STORY: Why aren't public servants taking vacations?

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.