Along with our partners at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), we announced the creation of FEMA Corps, which sets the foundation for a new generation of emergency managers. FEMA Corps leverages a newly-created unit of 1,600 service corps members from AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps who are solely devoted to FEMA disaster response and recovery.
The full-time residential service program is for individuals ages 18-24, and members will serve a one-year term including a minimum of 1,700 hours, providing support working directly with disaster survivors. The first members will begin serving in this August and the program will reach its full capacity within 18 months.
The program will enhance the federal government’s disaster capabilities, increase the reliability and diversity of the disaster workforce, promote an ethos of service, and expand education and economic opportunity for young people.
At today’s event, Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, remarked:
...[FEMA Corps], helps communities recover, it trains young people, helps them pay for college, and it doesn't cost taxpayers an additional dime. Whether you're a young person looking for work, a member of the community that's been hit by a flood or a tornado or just a citizen who wants your tax dollars to be spent as wisely as possible, this is a program you can be proud of. This is really government at its best.
And it's part of the president's larger vision for an America built to last. Today, so many of our young people have shown that they're willing to do their part to work hard, act responsibly and contribute to their communities. But in tough economic times, it's up to all of us to make sure that their hard work and responsibility still pays off.
We have to preserve what President Obama has called the basic promise of America, that no matter who you are, where you come from, you can make it if you try, if you fulfill your responsibilities and you make a contribution.
During the event, Secretary Napolitano described the program:
First and most important, it will help communities prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters by supporting disaster recovery centers, assisting in logistics, community relations and outreach, and performing other critical functions.
We know from experience that quick deployment of trained personnel is critical during a crisis. The FEMA Corps will provide a pool of trained personnel, and it will also pay long-term dividends by adding depth to our reserves -- individuals trained in every aspect of disaster response who augment our full-time FEMA staff.
Second, the Corps will help us make the best use of taxpayer funds as we bring in FEMA Corps members at a significantly lower cost.
Third, FEMA Corps will provide participants with critical job skills and training. Emergency management is a growing field, much larger than FEMA alone. The recent high school and college graduates entering this program will emerge with the training and the on-the-ground experience that provides a clear pathway into this critical profession.
And finally, this Corps -- it encourages and supports the ethic of public service tapping the energy and dedication to helping their communities that we see among so many young adults today. Many here today, myself included, know that a career in public service presents opportunities and rewards far beyond paychecks.
The new initiative will promote an ethos of national service and civic engagement by mobilizing corps members and community volunteers to provide critical disaster services. Once trained by FEMA and CNCS, members will provide support in areas ranging from working directly with disaster survivors, to supporting disaster recovering centers, and sharing valuable disaster information with the public.
Robert Velasco, Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, spoke about this new chapter in national service:
By opening up new pathways in emergency management, this partnership will give thousands of young people the opportunity to serve their country and gain the skills and training they need to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow. This is a historic new chapter in the history of national service that will enhance our nation's disaster capabilities and promote an ethic of national service while achieving significant cost savings for the taxpayer.
Deputy Administrator Serino discussed the importance of FEMA Corps:
People have asked, why is this important? Looking into the eyes of survivors, looking at communities that are devastated, having young people that can step up and help out in the time of a disaster who are trained will make a difference in people's lives. That's why we're doing this.
As we continue to move forward and we look for opportunities to be more efficient, to look for opportunities to get young people involved in government, to get young people involved in service to their country, [we] will make a difference. We've had the opportunity to work with CNCS in AmeriCorps in the past, and this is broadening that -- expanding it, so we have the opportunity to bring this talented, young, will-be-trained workforce to help our staff.
They are augmenting our reservists, augmenting our full-time employees. This will be an opportunity for us to strengthen our nation's disaster response capabilities, create pathways for young people and really help the ethos of national service.
Mayor Walter Maddox, Tuscaloosa, Ala. also attended today’s announcement, and from the perspective a mayor of a town still recovering from a major disaster last year, the mayor expressed his excitement about the new agreement:
This new partnership between FEMA and the Corporation for National and Community Service will be crucial in supporting cities, counties and states in their time of need. I commend FEMA and CNCS for understanding that to effectively respond during a crisis, we have to extend beyond political, geographical and even bureaucratic boundaries to ensure all resources are made available to the citizens we serve.
To recap, the purpose of the program is: