President Joe Biden signs off on giving federal wildland firefighters hefty raise for next 2 fiscal years

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden has signed on to give federal wildlife firefighters a big boost for the next two financial years, a move that affects more than 16,000 firefighters and comes as the West prepares for a difficult time of wildfires.

Wage increases for federal firefighters were included in last year ‘s $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill, but were delayed as federal agencies looked at recruitment and retention data to decide where to deliver them.

The White House said the move, announced Tuesday, aims to put “federal agencies on a path to continuing to work with stakeholders toward an up-to-date, competitive and equitable remuneration structure, along with a support system that addresses the many challenges “Our wilderness has plagued the fire brigade for decades.”

The law stipulated that $ 600 million in the infrastructure bill to increase the pay of wildfires should go to all of these firefighters provided they “are in a specific geographical area that is difficult to hire or maintain a federal wildlife firefighter. “

The Biden government has finally decided to increase the salaries of all federal wildlife firefighters over the next two years, according to a senior government official who spoke on condition of anonymity before the official announcement. The official said the infrastructure bill offered enough money to provide the increases, but the administration was trying to work with Congress to provide a long-term correction in firefighters’ fees.

“I will do my best, including working with Congress to secure long-term funding, to make sure these heroes continue to earn the salaries – and dignity – they deserve,” Biden said. in a statement.

The Infrastructure Act also authorized services to increase the federal wildlife firefighters’ base salary by $ 20,000 a year, or 50% of their current base salary, whichever is lower, by 2023. Firefighters will receive back pay for increases, dating from October 2021.

The National Confederation of Federal Workers’ Union, which represents the majority of federal wildlife firefighters, urged the Biden government to interpret the statute as broadly as possible, as firefighters across the country struggled to make ends meet.

“This is incredibly good news for federal wildlife firefighters across the country,” said Randy Erwin, president of the union. “There has been a serious problem in recruiting and retaining wildlife firefighters in federal services this year.”

Forest Service chief Randy Moore told a Senate subcommittee last month that his service levels were 90 percent, but up to 50 percent, in some areas, such as Oregon, Washington and California. .

Senator Martin Heinrich, DN.M., was among a group of lawmakers pushing the administration to resolve the pay issue amid concerns it would further exacerbate staff shortages as the West enters the hot summer months. Heinrich called the two-year compensation “progress”, but said more needed to be done. New Mexico has suffered the largest wildfire in the state this year.

“These men and women are battling the historic fires in the NM and are at the forefront of the climate crisis across the West,” Heinrich said in a Twitter message. “It is an admirable, hard work and hard for their families.”

The issue of recruitment, retention and low pay for wildfires in the wild has been on Biden’s radar since the beginning of his administration.

Last June, before the infrastructure bill was passed, the Democratic president signed an executive order temporarily raising the salaries of federal firefighters to ensure no one would make less than $ 15 an hour.

Biden said he was disappointed to learn that the initial fee for federal firefighters was significantly lower than that of many local and state fire departments. Payment for new federal firefighters typically ranged from $ 11 per hour to $ 14 per hour and they were eligible for overtime.

Copyright © 2022 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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President Joe Biden signs off on giving federal wildland firefighters hefty raise for next 2 fiscal years Source link President Joe Biden signs off on giving federal wildland firefighters hefty raise for next 2 fiscal years

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