Legislation eases financial burden on U.S. first responders helping abroad

Some American first responders traveling to natural disasters abroad could have passport fees waived under bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Ed Royce (R-CA) on Wednesday.

The First Responders Passport Act would give the secretary of state the authority to waive passport fees for certain U.S. first responders traveling to assist communities in foreign countries that have been impacted by natural catastrophes.

“Fairfax County is home to the elite Virginia Task Force 1 which has been deployed overseas over 30 times traveling thousands of miles to help those who are in need after disaster has struck,” Comstock said.

“This smart legislation will help ease the burden of these dedicated first responders so they do not have to pay passport fees as they are deployed overseas. I was honored to welcome home Virginia’s Task Force 1 on their last international deployment when a devastating earthquake hit Nepal,” she said.

American generosity is demonstrated through “the good hearts and compassionate” people who respond to natural disasters around the world, Issa said.

“Our first responders often travel thousands of miles to assist foreign communities in the aftermath of hurricanes, earthquakes and other catastrophes,” Issa said. “This legislation makes these selfless journeys a little easier by waiving passport fees for those headed to provide aid and by ensuring they are always ready to render life-saving help to those in need.”

Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Americans volunteer to respond to disaster around the world each year, including those from Los Angeles County.

“These heroes should not be deterred by fees and red tape,” Royce said. “This bill, which passed the House overwhelmingly last Congress, will provide a small but important benefit for those first responders, and I hope to see it become law.”

A bipartisan group of 14 additional lawmakers also cosponsored the measure.