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FEMA Warns Workers They May Have to Payback Overtime From Work on Hurricanes and Fires

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency is having some managerial issues of its own. The back-to-back hurricanes earlier this year meant many Federal disaster workers put in overtime hours. Now FEMA says some of that money may have to be repaid by the workers, as there is a federal statute that caps overtime earnings.

Worse yet, the wages may be garnished from future paychecks.

“Due to the extended work hours involved in supporting disaster recovery and response efforts for multiple storms, some employees have been affected by the annual maximum earnings limitation,” FEMA said in an emailed statement.

Workers “may still be ordered to perform work without receiving further compensation.” The bad news was delivered in late November. No word yet on when the wage garnishing will begin, though it won’t be this year.

“A bill will be determined and established for any premium pay amounts over the annual premium pay cap and the employee will be notified and billed in 2018 for that amount.”

2017 was busy. While the West suffered catastrophic wildfires, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria battered coastlines and caused significant flooding.

“In a House Appropriations subcommittee meeting last month,” NBC reports, “FEMA administrator Brock Long testified that staff was ‘tapped out’ because ‘FEMA was never designed to be the first or only respondent in a disaster, but we often find ourselves in that situation’.”

The number of employees who have exceeded the pay cap is estimated to be under 500, though the year isn’t over. This news comes as winter storms pick up and California suffers through even more devastating fires.

“Federal law provides an agency with the ability to waive an overpayment, whether the fault is the employee’s or the agency’s,” Jacob Statman, an attorney who represents federal workers told NBC. “But it is within their discretion.”

The question now is how to determine blame. If employees knowingly exceeded the cap, they will likely be on the hook for the repayment.