Legislation could extend allowing federal service firefighters to retire from service – Wildfire Today

It also addresses in a very limited way the rental rates of government housing

Firefighters dollars burning log
Firefighter dollars burn a record. Northwest Region Coordination Center’s photo. 2022.

The bill to be submitted to the Senate would ensure that federal firefighters will not forfeit their previous contributions or eligibility for firefighter retirement if they have had a voluntary break in service of less than 9 months. Returning to their jobs as firefighters after having to care for children or other family members, some employees are surprised to learn that an interruption of firefighter retirement coverage resets the clock. Their previous job as a firefighter no longer counted toward the firefighters’ retirement and their 20-year covered tenure began again. Arguably, why is there a limit to service interruptions. Or why can’t it be 5 years or 10 years?

Another ruling will put a cap on federal firefighters’ rent when they are required to occupy state housing. The maximum would be 40 percent of a person’s pre-tax salary. This is thought to affect a limited number of federal firefighters in the wilds, primarily in the National Park Service. The legislation states that this change will be implemented “notwithstanding Office of Financial Management Circular No. A-45R” which states that “rents and other fees shall not be determined to provide housing support, serve as an incentive in hiring or retain employees, or encourage occupancy Existing government housing.

Federal government rental housing under the OMB is required to be “based on an impartial study of comparable private rental housing.”

Nationally, rents rose 11.3 percent last year, according to real estate research firm CoStar Group.

The bill was announced Wednesday by U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and committee chair Joe Manchin (D-WV). It is entitled “Strengthening the Effective Forest Management Act 2022.”

Grassroots Wildland firefighters played a role in introducing these provisions into the proposed legislation. Kelly Martin, president, said she views them as placeholders or starting points.

There will be opportunities where a language modification is considered, perhaps, for example, to remove interruption restrictions to cover firefighter retirement, and a method for determining housing rental rates that a GS-3 firefighter would make around $2,200 a month could afford, whether it was required to The employee stay in government housing or not.

With difficulties in recruiting and retaining federal firefighters, and hundreds of job openings, it may be time to amend the Office of Financial Management’s Circular to allow rental rates to “serve as an incentive in hiring or retaining staff.”

The bill has not yet been submitted to the Senate and could be subject to changes and amendments if it gets this far during the process. It contains several provisions that could garner Republican votes, such as quadrupling mechanical mitigation goals, simplifying environmental reviews, and increasing grazing. Half a dozen organizations associated with data registration submitted in support of the invoice.

Other provisions in the legislation:

  • The FS must develop a program that provides incentives for employees to grow in their niche without moving.
  • Field service personnel will be required to reduce the number of direct officer transfers, in order to increase the amount of time they spend on duty at a duty station.
  • The FS and BLM are required to double their mechanical mitigation targets by 2025 and quadruple them by 2027.
  • Provincial and local governments are allowed to intervene in lawsuits aimed at stopping wildfire prevention projects in nearby national forests.
  • It places a $100,000 cap on employee relocation expenses.
  • Job applicants will be requested in a manner that does not limit eligibility for current Forest Service employees.
  • The FS should work with countries to develop a global, step-by-step program to train people to join the logging work force, and study ways to facilitate vocational training opportunities.
  • Within three years of the legislation being passed, each FS and BLM must use at least one of six streamlining environmental audit methods in a forest management project.
  • The Forest Service and the BLM are directed to develop a strategy to increase the use of grazing as a tool to mitigate wildfires.

author: Bill Jabert

After working full-time in prairie fires for 33 years, he continues to learn, striving to be a student of fire. View all posts by Bill Gabert

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