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WASHINGTON

Biden signs Katko's bill to help FEMA reservists responding to disasters

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Tropical Weather Biden

President Joe Biden speaks about Hurricane Ian during a visit to FEMA headquarters in Washington Thursday as Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas listens at right.

President Joe Biden has signed a bill co-authored by U.S. Rep. John Katko to assist Federal Emergency Management Agency reservists who respond to disasters. 

Katko, R-Camillus, and U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, a Nevada Democrat, introduced legislation to add FEMA reservists to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. Under federal law, the personnel who deploy to disaster areas will now receive employment protections. They do not have to notify their employers if they will be absent from work due to a deployment. 

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act took effect in 1994 and protects members of the armed forces and veterans. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, it requires companies to reemploy service members at the same pay and status they would have held if they were not deployed. 

While Katko and Titus introduced the House bill, U.S. Sens. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, and Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, carried the measure in the Senate. The Senate passed it in December 2021 by unanimous consent, which means no senators opposed the measure. In the House, the final vote was 387-38. 

Biden signed the bill in a private ceremony at the White House on Thursday. Katko attended the event. 

"It was an honor to be at the White House to celebrate the enactment of the Civilian Reservist Emergency Workforce Act," Katko said in a statement. "When disaster strikes, FEMA reservists are often required to deploy at a moment's notice. 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." 

The White House announced the bill's signing by thanking the sponsors of the bill, including Katko, for their leadership. 

The legislation was signed into law as FEMA responds to Hurricane Ian, which caused significant damage in Florida. 

Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.

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