Portman, Peters Bipartisan Legislation to Protect FEMA Reservists' Jobs During Disaster Response 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 been 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 new law was championed in the House by U.S. Representatives John Katko (R-NY) and Dina Titus (D-NV). 

“FEMA Reservists should be protected from any disadvantage or discrimination due to their service and that’s why I’m pleased our bipartisan bill to extend Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act protections to FEMA Reservists has been signed into law. This law 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 are essential to ensuring the federal government can aid communities that have been hit by natural disasters and other emergencies. These dedicated employees need our support as they help people rebuild and recover following extreme weather events like floods and hurricanes,” said Senator Peters. “Now that President Biden has signed this commonsense, bipartisan bill into law – FEMA Reservists will no longer have to risk their livelihoods when being called up to respond to a disaster.” 

“I am honored to celebrate the enactment of the Civilian Reservist Emergency Workforce Act. When disaster strikes, FEMA Reservists are often required to deploy at a moment’s notice,” said Rep. Katko. “But under current law, FEMA Reservists do not receive important protections that prevent them from losing their full-time employment. I helped introduce this bipartisan bill to protect FEMA Reservists and ensure they do not have to choose between their careers and responding to a disaster.” 

“I was honored to join President Biden as he signed the CREW Act into law,” said Rep. Titus. “This bill will ensure volunteers who go to the frontlines to aid in disaster relief will have the protections and benefits they deserve. As Chair of the subcommittee that oversees FEMA, I will do all I can to assure everyone impacted by Hurricane Ian gets the help they need to recover and build back better.” 

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 extends 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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