Peters and Portman Bipartisan Legislation to Protect FEMA Reservists’ Jobs During Disaster Response Heads to President to be Signed Into Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation authored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, 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 passed the House. 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, which passed the Senate last December and was led through the House by U.S. Representatives Dina Titus (D-NV-01) and John Katko (R-NY-24), now heads to the President to be signed into law.

“FEMA Reservists serve as an essential part of our federal response to everything from hurricanes, flooding, or wildfires to public health crises,” said Senator Peters. “They should never have to worry about losing their livelihoods when called up to serve. I am grateful to my colleagues in the House for passing this legislation and urge the President to sign it into law as soon as possible.”

“FEMA Reservists should be protected from any disadvantage or discrimination due to their service and that’s why I’m pleased the House has passed our bipartisan bill to extend Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act protections to FEMA Reservists. This bill will improve the retention of these highly skilled emergency responders while also strengthening the agency’s readiness to respond to major disasters,” said Senator 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.”

“FEMA reservists have stepped up time and again when our communities needed help in the wake of severe storms, wildfires, earthquakes, and on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill will protect them from losing their full-time employment when they are responding to disasters. When these men and women answer the call of duty, they shouldn’t be worried about losing their means of income,” said Congresswoman Titus.

“When disaster strikes, FEMA Reservists are often required to deploy at a moment’s notice,” said Rep. Katko. “However, during a deployment, Reservists currently do not receive protections that prevent them from losing their full-time employment. That’s why I am proud to see the CREW Act pass the House and head to the President’s desk to become law. This bipartisan legislation will protect FEMA Reservists and ensure they do not have to choose between their careers and responding to a disaster.”

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.