WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation authored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) to protect Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Reservists from losing their full-time employment when they are called up to assist communities with disaster response has advanced in the Senate. FEMA Reservists are temporary, on-call, and intermittent employees who are essential to the agency’s mission to quickly respond to disasters, but they currently lack employment protections that ensure they will be able to return to their full-time jobs once their disaster response mission is complete. The legislation was unanimously approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where Peters serves as Chair and Portman serves as Ranking Member.
“Our steadfast FEMA Reservists, who are essential to helping Americans recover from disasters and emergencies such as the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, should be protected from losing their employment when they are called into service,” said Chairman Peters. “This bipartisan bill will not only help protect these essential workers, but also help FEMA recruit and retain Reservists to strengthen our response to disasters. I’ll fight for its swift passage into law and continue my work to ensure FEMA is ready to respond whenever disaster strikes.”
“FEMA Reservists should be protected from any disadvantage or discrimination due to their service and that’s why I’m proud the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed this bipartisan bill to extend Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act protections to FEMA Reservists. This bipartisan bill will improve the retention of these highly skilled emergency responders while also strengthening the agency’s readiness to respond to major disasters,” said Ranking Member Portman. “It is not only the right thing to do but comes as our country is facing a record-high number of disasters where these Reservists are needed the most.”
Currently, FEMA faces a large shortfall of Reservists because it is difficult to recruit and retain Americans who are likely unable to balance Reservist duties and full-time employment. Unlike reservists in the U.S. military, FEMA Reservists do not currently have employment protections that would enable them to perform their disaster response duties and ensure that their permanent, full-time jobs will still be available when they return.
The Civilian Reservist Emergency Workforce Act would extend critical employment protections to FEMA Reservists to ensure they would be able to keep their full-time employment when they are called to assist in disaster response efforts. Peters and Portman introduced the legislation following testimony they heard as part of the Committee’s bipartisan oversight of the COVID-19 pandemic response to ensure the United States is better prepared for future national emergencies.