Peters and Portman Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect FEMA Reservists’ Jobs During Disaster Response

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced they have introduced bipartisan legislation 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. 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.

“Time and time again, dedicated FEMA reservists have answered the call to help their fellow Americans through serious disasters and emergencies – whether its flooding, severe storms, wildfires, or even assisting in the response to the Coronavirus pandemic,” said Chairman Peters. “These devoted professionals should never have to worry that they could lose their livelihoods when they are called to serve their country. This bipartisan bill will help protect our essential disaster response workers, and ensure that FEMA will always be ready to respond with critical personnel when disaster strikes.”

“FEMA Reservists should be protected from any disadvantage or discrimination due to their service and that’s why I’m proud to introduce 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.