Work continues to help flood victims in Centre County

BELLEFONTE — A lot is being done to help the 408 households and businesses that have reported damages from the recent flooding in the Bald Eagle area.

At their Tuesday morning meeting, the Centre County Board of Commissioners heard a flood update from Faith Ryan, director of Centre County Adult Services, and Jeff Wharran, director of Centre County Emergency Management Agency.

According to Wharran, his office is currently conducting the fourth damage assessment. The Small Business Administration (SBA), along with representatives from the county and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), started the fourth assessment Tuesday morning.

Once SBA reaches its threshold, which is a minimum of 25 residences that have major category damage, and once SBA loans are approved, a disaster loan outreach center will be set up to help eligible residents with low-interest loans. Wharran explained that SBA’s definition of major category damage is 40 percent damage to the value of a home, property, or its contents.

Initially, the county did a damage assessment, and based upon the county’s assessment, PEMA did an individual assessment of damage to residences. Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency performed a public assistance assessment, which went quite well, Wharran said. That is where, statewide, a need exists of $18.2 million in damage costs.

Once that need is met, all of the assessment information will be put together in a packet that PEMA will present to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. From there, Gov. Wolf will make a decision on whether to do a state declaration, and if he does the declaration, it will be forwarded to the president for a federal declaration.

“That’s where the public assistance funds may come into play and they’ll reimburse the local municipalities and the county for expenditures and roadway/bridge repairs, things of that nature,” Wharran said.

On Nov. 3, 101 families attended a community outreach event at Freedom Life Church in Milesburg, which was held to offer help to those affected by the recent flooding, according to Ryan.

“What we continue to find, again, the primary needs are damages to the homes, so we’re trying to figure out creative ways to help people in that capacity,” Ryan said.

One local nonprofit organization that has been working to provide financial support to affected residents is Helping Other People Excel (HOPE), which as of last week, has helped 43 families with $18,250 of damages.

One resource that will help some affected families is the Centre County Community Super Fair, which is being held this Saturday, Nov. 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Mount Nittany Middle School, located at 656 Brandywine Drive in State College. According to Ryan, the fair will have about 110 vendors, and resources will be available to help people find out how they can provide services and for people looking for volunteer opportunities.

Another helpful resource for residents affected by the flooding is the Dislocated Residents Fund through Interfaith Human Services. Anyone interested in making a donation can call 814-234-7731 or mail a check, “Memo: Dislocated Residents Fund,” to Interfaith Human Services, 251 Easterly Parkway, Ste. 200, State College, Pa. 16801.

In other business, the commissioners declared the week of Nov. 12 through Nov. 20 to be National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

According to Joanne Tosti-Vasey, vice president of the local Ni-Ta-Nee chapter of the National Organization for Women, who brought the proclamation forward, there are serious problems nationally and in Centre County with homelessness, housing insecurity and food insecurity, and this week is meant to raise awareness of these issues and point out available resources to help people facing these problems. Tosti-Vasey explained that food insecurity means that people are able to get food to eat, but just do not get enough to fully sustain themselves or have only food without the nutrition they need to stay healthy. Housing insecurity refers to people who move from house to house because they have no place of their own, due to such reasons as lack of a job or women and their families who are running away from domestic violence.

“The National Organization for Women knows and understands that sensitively and appropriately dealing with housing insecurity, food insecurity, and homelessness is necessary to maintain the health, employment and educational opportunities for all, as well as dealing with the safety issues of women and their families who have to or need to flee violence,” Tosti-Vasey said.

In Centre County, there are many resources to help such individuals, including various food banks, Meals on Wheels, Out of the Cold, Housing Transitions, the Women’s Resource Center and the Youth Service Bureau.

Further information on services to help those facing homelessness, housing insecurity and food insecurity can be found online at http://centrecountypa.gov/index.aspx?NID=308.

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