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Liability Insurance for Federal Employees and Contractors

Overworked, Under-Resourced Employees Could Cause Increased Vulnerability for FEMA Managers

In recent years, employees at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have been deployed to natural disaster sites, wildfires, the U.S.-Mexico border, and other areas in need of aid. During this time, FEMA has been working with 6,000 less employees than the agency’s goal. 

Lawmakers have started to question whether FEMA has been taking on too much responsibility while dealing with a staff operating at only 65% capacity.  Agency management has warned that employees are fatigued due to the lack of downtime between deployments, with burnout among employees spiking. Employee fatigue may lead to employee errors and, with lawmakers already monitoring the agency, accountability for these errors may ultimately lay at the feet of FEMA managers. 

A Lawmaking Lens

Lawmakers on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's panel on Emergency Management believe that Congressional mandates were partly to blame for some of FEMA’s issues, causing "mission creep,” in which FEMA may be taking on roles outside of its scope.  

"FEMA can’t be all things to all people,” said Rep. Scott Perry, R-PA., who chaired the hearing. "We have to get a handle on the proper role of FEMA and ensure FEMA’s internal controls reduce fraud and misuse of taxpayer funds.”

Ongoing Objectives

Chris Currie, a director at the Government Accountability Office for Homeland Security and Justice, informed lawmakers that the biggest issue involved long-term recovery impacts, with FEMA’s ongoing projects dating back to Hurricane Katrina response. "In 2017, FEMA deployed 3,300 staff and reservists per day, whereas today that number has more than doubled to 7,000,” Currie said. 

Rep. Derrick Van Orden, R-Wis. argued that FEMA must be able to adequately respond to acute disasters. Orden specifically noted that, while the number of FEMA employees at the U.S.-Mexico border has decreased over the last few years, the agency could better focus their resources to Hawaii, as many Hawaiians are still without homes following the 2023 wildfires. 

FEMA Fallout

Burnout at FEMA has increased since the pandemic and recruiting remains a challenge since most of its staff are reservists who only work part of the year. Previously employees benefited from this schedule, having months of break in between deployment. Now, many workers – particularly those with specialized skills – are being deployed from one disaster to the next without any time off. 

FEMA reservists reported that new hires had received insufficient training before deployment and some employees were working 12-hour days for a month straight due to the increased workload without supplemented staffing. Issues with recruitment and retention have left FEMA employees overworked and under-resourced, which could impact agency efficiency and accuracy. If errors are made and issues arise, FEMA managers may be subject to allegations of mismanagement, leading to investigations and even lawsuits.  

FEDS Protection for FEMA Managers

As a federal manager, you need to have counsel that has specific federal experience representing you and your professional vulnerabilities. As the professional liability insurance (PLI) provider endorsed by the leading federal employee associations, FEDS Protection can help.

FEDS Protection offers federal employee PLI policies with $1 million, $2 million, or $3 million in civil liability protection for attorney’s fees and indemnity costs in the event you are sued in your civil capacity.  The FEDS policy also includes $200,000 of legal representation coverage per incident for administrative actions and $100,000 of coverage for criminal defense costs.  Annual premiums for FEDS Protection PLI start at just $290.  Additionally, federal managers and law enforcement officers are eligible for a reimbursement of up to 50% the cost of their PLI policy through their agency. To learn more about how a FEDS PLI policy can protect you and your career, visit or call (866) 955-FEDS, M-F 8:30am-6pm.

*This article is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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