1 of 2 | President Joe Biden, in the White House, addresses a virtual audience attending the Summit on Fire Prevention and Control on Tuesday. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 11 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden called on Congress on Tuesday to help U.S. government firefighters by passing the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act to aid in receiving workers' compensation for illness and disability.
Biden made his remarks to the live-streamed National Summit on Fire Prevention and Control, which was transmitted from the National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg, Md.
In his video speech Biden said the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act would help U.S. firefighters and their families "access critical worker compensation resources, including making sure that several forms of cancer are presumed to be caused by the firefighters' job."
The proposed legislation that would make it "easier for federally employed firefighters who contract certain illnesses to qualify for federal workers' compensation," according to the congressional summary of the bill.
Biden used the opportunity to thank the firefighters who saved his two sons after the 1972 car accident that killed his first wife, Neilia, and 13-month-old daughter, Naomi.
"My two boys, who were then almost 3 and almost 4, were on top of their dead sister and mother, and it took the jaws of life from my local fire department volunteers to get them out and get them to the hospital. It saved their lives," Biden said.
The president also outlined specific legislation he said were critical to firefighters.
"Between the American Rescue Plan and my 2023 budget request, we've increased federal firefighting grants by $320 million, which includes money to fund 1,200 more local firefighters in the field, hundreds more emergency response vehicles and thousands and thousands of sets of turnout gear," Biden said.
The American Rescue Plan was a landmark for President Biden, who signed the nearly $2 trillion package in 2021, with the aim of stimulating the U.S. economy and helping citizens still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden also bemoaned the effects of climate change, which he linked to the wildfires that have affected multiple U.S. states.
"The impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly evident. We are calling on you more and more and more. Extreme heat and prolonged drought have turned wildfire season into wildfire years. Local firefighters are being called in more."
Biden pointed to prior legislation as a tool against climate change. "The Inflation Reduction Act enables us to take unprecedented steps to confront the climate crisis which is going to protect forest health, reduce fire risk and supercharge our clean energy future."