Monday, Sept. 20 Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) sent a letter alongside Sen. Alex Padilla (CA) and Rep. Joe Neguse (CO-2) to House and Senate Leadership urging them to include a two-year lift of the federal firefighter pay cap in budget legislation currently moving through Congress. Right now, as many as 500 federal firefighters and first responders could hit this pay cap by the end of the year, possibly limiting or eliminating their ability to accept wildfire fighting assignments while fires rage across the West.
“We’re in an all hands on deck moment right now, and to think that some quirk in the federal rulebook is going to keep our firefighters at home is just absurd,” said Rep. Harder. “We need to fix this pay cap today so that our firefighters can get back to keeping our communities safe, and nobody needs to worry about getting their staffing rejecting or their overtime going unpaid.”
The letter was sent to Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Leader Schumer, and Leader McConnell.
“We are writing to request immediate action through the Continuing Resolution or Disaster Supplemental to address the needs of incident managers, senior leaders, and others involved in wildland firefighting efforts at the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture. Specifically, we ask for the inclusion of necessary authorities to waive limitations on overtime and premium pay for wildland firefighters as proposed in H.R. 4274, the Wildland Firefighter Fair Pay Act,” Harder and his fellow letter writers noted. “As wildfires, coronavirus and other natural disasters continue to test emergency responders, we believe urgent Congressional action is needed to ensure that federal employees responding to wildfires are receiving full and fair compensation for their on-going efforts to protect lives and communities.”
Additionally, the letter indicates that “Congress has previously provided similar waivers including for federal employees responding to coronavirus, Secret Service employees performing protective duties, and for employees serving in certain oversees locations” and they are asking for the same consideration in this case.