Services remain unforgotten for Henryville heroes

Posted by: Kelly Sweeney  | Saturday, February 16, 2013 8:00 am

STATEHOUSE - House Bill (HB) 1325 authored by State Rep. Randy Frye (R-Greensburg) and co-authored by Reps. Doug Gutwein (R-Francesville) and Jud McMillin (R-Brookville) passed unanimously out of the Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee today. This bill will now go to the House floor providing an opportunity for the legislators to offer any amendments on it, known as the second reading.

If enacted, HB 1325 makes disaster relief personnel temporary employees of the state. Local fiscal bodies are responsible for paying those emergency workers for services rendered and once payment is sent out; those bodies must then submit a fund compensation application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for reimbursement. The application is then reviewed by FEMA who determines whether or not a fiscal body is eligible for fund repayment.

With Indiana’s larger source of funds, there is less risk involved for the state to undergo FEMA’s fund compensation application than the local fiscal bodies. By making disaster relief personnel employees of the state, pressure is then removed from those local bodies to account for the massive costs accrued by a natural disaster – ensuring that those emergency workers are paid.

“Emergency responders failing to receive payment for risking their lives and selflessly sacrificing their time is unacceptable,” said Rep. Frye. “As author, I want to ensure that these heroes, who have bills to pay, are reimbursed for services rendered.”

The bill was drafted in response to a situation that occurred in the Southern Indiana town of Henryville last year. On March 2, a tornado devastated the town’s infrastructure and unfortunately claimed several lives. Once the storm dissipated, disaster relief personnel arrived quickly and began assisting those in need.

Many of the Henryville volunteers consisted of Hoosier firefighters from across the state.  Those heroes put their permanent jobs on hold and used their resources to assist in the disaster relief efforts. The firefighters worked lengthy, physically demanding hours, going above the call of duty by responding to distress calls, looking through debris for missing persons and assisting the injured. The Henryville emergency workers performed all of these tasks and were reimbursed, but there was no system in place for the Department of Homeland Security to reimburse the local authorities. This bill establishes a system to better assist with the reimbursement.

“Hoosiers are known for their hospitality, and we treat everyone like family,” said Rep. Gutwein. “When communities are in need of disaster relief, our first responders should never have to question whether assistance fits in the budget. This bill ensures that a repayment system is set in place.”

Visit www.in.gov/legislative for more information about HB 1325.

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