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Legislation, funding focus on fire, learning
Harder district

Fighting wildfires and preparing youth for the job market are the focus of two bills recently introduced in Washington by area Congressman Josh Harder.

Rep. Josh Harder (CA-9) and Reps. Scott Franklin (FL-18) and Joe Neguse (CO-2) have introduced a first-of-its-kind bill to modernize how the United States combats the wildfire crisis. Harder has been working on this comprehensive package for almost a year alongside wildfire experts, firefighting agencies, and members of both parties. This landmark bill will be the first time the federal government has taken an all-the-above approach to dealing with the wildfire crisis by modernizing existing fire prevention efforts and responding directly to the needs of firefighters, wildfire experts, and public health officials.

The Modernizing Wildfire Safety and Prevention Act takes a four-part approach to combating the dangerous rise in megafires:

Combat firefighter shortages by establishing a new Middle Fire Leaders Academy and grant programs to train and hire more firefighters;

Retain expert wildland firefighters with increased benefits and better working conditions;

Improve fire response time with updated technology like developing risk maps and establishing the Joint Office of Fire Environment Center;

Address the public health crisis caused by wildfire smoke by establishing a nationwide real-time air quality monitoring and alert system.

“We no longer have a wildfire season in California – it’s a year-round crisis. We cannot wait another day to tackle this threat,” said Rep. Harder. “Alongside our bipartisan partners, we’ve put together a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive bill to finally fight this crisis head-on. Our families and our communities are counting on us to get this bill passed.”

The Modernizing Wildfire Safety and Prevention Act was written in response to the independent Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission’s 148-page report recommending policies to end the wildfire crisis. Reps. Greg Stanton (AZ-4), Mike Thompson (CA-4), John Garamendi (CA-8), and Val Hoyle (OR-4) are also original co-sponsors of this bill.

In addition to the wildfire package, Harder also recently secured some funds for students in San Joaquin County. A member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, Harder announced earlier this month that he secured $1,050,000 to build a Career-Connected Learning Hub in Stockton to set San Joaquin County students up for successful career paths. The hub will be led by San Joaquin A+ and will provide a collaboration space for educators and employers to combine classroom instruction with relevant, hands-on experience like farm drone design challenges, electric vehicle maintenance classes, and entrepreneurial “Shark Tank” competitions.

“We need to do everything we can to set our kids up for success, and that means preparing them to get good-paying jobs when they graduate,” said Harder. “A four-year college degree isn’t the answer for everyone. We need to expand work-based learning opportunities and encourage skills-based education paths to fill open jobs right here in our community. This Career-Connected Learning Hub is a vital investment for the future of our kids.”

Through work-based learning opportunities like career exploration, mentoring, project-based learning, and paid internships and apprenticeships, this hub will allow students to decide which job field is best for them. The hub will empower students to get the skills, training, and experience they need to fill local jobs in the agriculture, health care, education, and trade sectors.

“We are so extremely grateful for the support and advocacy of Congressman Harder and other local leaders,” said Kai Kung, CEO of San Joaquin A+. “We will use this funding to create a greater number of high-quality programs that provide students with the knowledge, skills, credentials, and capital to secure family-sustaining careers by the age of 26. We know that in order to create a bright future for our youth, San Joaquin County needs to cultivate a talent pipeline of prepared, local, and diverse future workforce. This funding will provide the spark needed to make that possible.”

This project is supported by the San Joaquin County Office of Education, San Joaquin Delta College, Business Council of San Joaquin, Port of Stockton, Visionary Home Builders, Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce, San Joaquin County WorkNet, El Concilio, San Joaquin Community Foundation, Holt of California, Lodi Winegrape Commission, Lodi Appellation Inclusion Collective, Reinvent Stockton Foundation, and Oasis City Center.