President Barack Obama shakes hands with Federal Emergency Management Agency workers at FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 28. The government is extending federal health benefits to part-time Federal Emergency Management Agency employees. (AFP)
The government is extending federal health benefits to part-time Federal Emergency Management Agency employees.
The change, published in Wednesday’s Federal Register, will allow FEMA “reservists” to get coverage under the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program when they are actually working for the agency. After Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast last month, many of the roughly 3,000 FEMA employees who responded in the hardest-hit areas were part-timers who “put their health and safety at risk,” the Office of Personnel Management said in the Federal Register notice.
FEMA has more than 6,900 reservists, a spokeswoman said. Agency officials must still get authorization from OPM before they can begin offering coverage.
The shift follows an online petition drive launched by a North Carolina woman earlier this month on change.org that has thus far gathered more than 114,000 signatures. At President Obama’s order, OPM agreed in July to provide health coverage to seasonal firefighters who work less than six months per year. In extending coverage to FEMA part-timers, OPM decided that the need was urgent enough to warrant waiver of the usual public notice and comment process. Members of the public will instead have 60 days to comment on the interim final rule.