Bilirakis Leads Bi-partisan Bill to Improve Emergency Response
Washington, DC: Congressman Bilirakis introduced bipartisan legislation this week to improve the federal government’s ability to respond to emergency situations, like natural and man-made disasters. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR) deploys Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT) to help coordinate emergency medical responses as needed. These important teams are comprised of part-time professionals who take temporary leave from their alternate employment to help during a crisis; however, due to retirements and a hiring freeze, ASPR is currently experiencing a staffing shortage of 2,000 personnel in this critical area. Given HHS’s rigorous hiring and training protocols, ASPR will not be at full capacity by next hurricane season unless it is given direct hiring authority to fill these vacant positions within the next month. This bill grants ASPR direct, temporary hiring authority to recruit and train these essential professionals. Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D-FL), Congressman Pete Olson (R-TX) and Congressman Gene Green (D-TX) are co-sponsors of the bill. The bill’s Senate companion (S.1865) has been introduced by Senator Rubio and is co-sponsored by Senators Bill Nelson, Cornyn and Cassidy.
“Public safety is a paramount concern. It is important that we give the Department of Health and Human Services the tools they need to effectively respond to emergency situations. As we saw with this hurricane season, multiple catastrophic disasters within a short period of time can strain resources. It is critical to plan ahead and eliminate bureaucratic red tape that is preventing our country from being fully prepared for the challenges that lie ahead,” said Congressman Bilirakis.