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Peters Bipartisan Bill to Bolster FEMA Workforce Planning, Protect Communities from Natural Disasters Advances in Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to create a plan for the agency to effectively manage its workforce so that they are well-equipped to help communities deal with natural disasters has advanced in the Senate. FEMA has faced challenges deploying staff with the proper training and skills needed to best address different natural disasters across the country. This legislation would improve FEMA’s employee recruitment and retention efforts, develop strategies to train and deploy their workforce in efficient ways, and utilize data to address and fix staffing gaps. The bill was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where Peters serves as Chair. It now moves to the full Senate for consideration. 

FEMA is vital to communities as they work to recover from natural disasters,” said Senator Peters. “We must ensure this agency has a strong and reliable workforce that is prepared to assist in any emergency. My bipartisan legislation will help build and maintain FEMA’s staff to ensure survivors get proper assistance after a natural disaster.”   

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that FEMA faced challenges deploying staff with the right skills and training to meet the specific needs of communities impacted by natural disasters. For example, at the height of workforce deployments in October 2017, GAO found that 54 percent of staff were serving in a capacity in which they were not formally certified according to FEMA’s qualification system standards. When natural disasters hit, FEMA must ensure it has a strong workforce in place to provide reliable service.   

The bipartisan Federal Emergency Mobilization Accountability (FEMA) Workforce Planning Act would require FEMA to submit a human capital operating plan to Congress one year after enactment and every three years thereafter. The plan must include specific retention and recruitment goals, strategies to train and deploy the workforce, and analysis of the current workforce, including gaps that need to be addressed. Additionally, the bill would require GAO to audit the plan within 6 months of submission to analyze whether it meets the requirements set in law, and, if not, offer recommendations to ensure subsequent plans do.