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Senators Hassan and Hawley Introduce Bipartisan Federal Disaster Responder Act

Bill Amends Tax Rule that Limits Time for Federal Disaster Deployments

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), the lead Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management, and Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), who also serves on the Subcommittee, introduced bipartisan legislation that will help strengthen federal disaster response. The bill ensures that when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sends federal workers for disaster response, there is not an arbitrary cap of one year for their deployment to a disaster zone.


Tax law ensures that workers can deduct business travel expenses from their income, but only if the travel is for less than one year. Thus, FEMA brings federal responders home after 50 weeks of deployment irrespective of state and local needs on the ground. Federal law enforcement may be exempted from the tax law and continue to receive the tax deduction beyond the one year limit, and Senator Hassan and Hawley's bipartisan bill would give the same exemption option for federal workers responding to disasters.


"In the middle of recovering from a disaster, the last thing that communities in New Hampshire and across the country need is staffing shortages and coordination problems," said Senator Hassan. "Our commonsense bipartisan bill ensures that federal disaster responders can stay on the ground based on the actual needs of the people and communities experiencing the disaster."


“FEMA employees play a critical role in our nation’s response to national emergencies, especially the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s time we removed a tax burden that prevents deployed responders from staying in the field to help finish the job. We need to give FEMA and its employees more flexibility for response and recovery operations, not less," said Senator Hawley.


As Ranking Member of the Subcommittee overseeing FEMA, Senator Hassan has worked across the aisle to strengthen disaster response efforts. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Hassan has repeatedly pushed FEMA to strengthen its efforts to ensure that communities have the personal protective equipment, testing supplies, and other resources that they need. 


Last year, the President signed into law legislation introduced by Senator Hawley and cosponsored by Senator Hassan to support first responders by allowing federal employees to assist with FEMA's Urban Search and Rescue efforts. In addition, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Senator Hassan to improve FEMA's ability to efficiently and effectively respond to natural disasters. 


Read the text of Senator Hassan and Hawley's bill here.