If the president’s plan is approved, more federal firefighters could be hired at a higher starting pay level
By Leila Merrill
WASHINGTON — Several parts of President Joe Biden’s proposed budget, which he released this week, could affect firefighters and EMS providers.
If Biden’s proposed plan is passed in its current form, there are multiple items that would touch on public safety and first responder issues:
- The No Surprises Act would be extended to ground ambulance services starting in 2025. The act protects consumers from most instances of surprise balance billing, but currently does not apply to ground agencies.
- The base pay for wildlands firefighters would increase.
The budget includes increases of $180 million for USDA and $72 million for DOI to raise base pay for Federal and Tribal wildland firefighters, with additional premium pay costs covered out of funding requested for suppression operations. To implement this reform, the President’s budget proposes legislation to: establish a special base rate salary table for all federal wildland firefighters that will permanently increase their pay; create a new premium pay category that provides all incident responders with additional compensation for all hours they are mobilized on an incident; and establish a pay cap with secretarial waiver authority using specific criteria,” a U.S. Department of Agriculture news release reads.
- The “budget will support the equivalent of 970 (8.5%) additional federal firefighters and support personnel for USDA and 370 (8.8%) more federal personnel for DOI.”
- Funding to support for firefighters’ mental and physical health would increase by $10 million each for the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior.
- The proposed budget increases funding for both departments to house firefighters and support personnel.
- “The president’s budget for USDA also includes an increase of $16 million for the wildfire preparedness program and $183 million for hiring additional personnel,” the USDA wrote.
- Biden’s proposed budget also would increase DOI’s budget for wildfire preparedness by $38 million.