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Biden Urges Congress to Protect Firefighter Pay Amid Wildfires

Biden Urges Congress to Protect Firefighter Pay Amid Wildfires

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As devastating wildfires continue to wreak havoc across the country, the Biden administration is pushing Congress to ensure that the pay of firefighters battling these blazes is not slashed in the coming months.

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President Joe Biden’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has sent a letter to Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, requesting additional funding for various urgent needs, including supporting wildland firefighters.

Under the current circumstances, firefighters are operating under a temporary pay increase provided by Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure legislation.

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This legislation mandates pay increases for firefighters in areas facing recruitment and retention challenges, with the aim of either boosting their annual salaries by up to $20,000 or by 50%, whichever is lower.

However, this funding is set to expire by the end of the fiscal year, potentially affecting more than 20,000 firefighters by October.

Without continued funding, some firefighters could see their wages drop significantly, with estimates suggesting that pay could be as low as $15 an hour.

To prevent this potential pay cut and its potential repercussions, the administration is seeking to secure a $60 million funding increase for the Agriculture and Interior Departments to support firefighter pay raises.

Additionally, they are requesting $12 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to replenish its disaster relief fund.

Against the backdrop of an unprecedented summer marked by deadly wildfires and extreme weather events, the need to sustain firefighting efforts and support firefighters’ wages has become a critical issue.

The ongoing wildfires in various regions, including Hawaii and Texas, have taken lives and caused significant damage to property.

The rise in extreme weather events and record heat adds to the concern, potentially leading to more wildfires.

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced the Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act.

This legislation aims to make the pay increases for firefighters permanent to avoid a potential mass departure of federal firefighters from the National Forest Service.

The support for this act emphasizes the critical role firefighters play in safeguarding communities and highlights the need for fair compensation.

California Representative Josh Harder, who introduced the legislation, stressed the importance of providing a living wage and comprehensive support to wildland firefighters.

As wildfire season continues and the threat of more devastating fires looms, ensuring the well-being and financial security of these brave individuals remains a priority..

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