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

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced that their bipartisan Civilian Reservist Emergency Workforce Act 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 and now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law. 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 bipartisan legislation passed the Senate last December. 

“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 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.” 

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. Portman and Peters 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. 

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