Gov. Wolf seeks federal aid in response to flooding

From staff reports

MILESBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf has requested disaster declarations through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the president for Bradford, Centre, Lycoming and Sullivan counties and through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for Lycoming and Centre counties.

The requests were made in response to significant flooding in northcentral Pennsylvania on Oct. 21 that reached $33.2 million in damages, according to estimates.

“After my trip there right after the flooding, I understood that the devastation in North Central Pennsylvania is more significant and wide-spread than we have seen recently in the commonwealth. These two programs are the best options available to provide financial assistance to both local governments and citizens who have been impacted by this flooding,” said Governor Wolf. “We’ve worked closely with local, county and state partners on multiple damage assessments, and we are confident that we meet the federal criteria for both declarations.”

Among the locations hard hit by flooding was eastern Centre County — Milesburg and Howard.

In fact, over 100 residents of Milesburg and Howard residents were rescued due to flooding overnight Oct. 20-21.

They were evacuated and many went to Bald Eagle Area High School in Wingate, where the Red Cross set up a shelter.

Centre County commissioners declared a disaster emergency.

Gov. Wolf’s request for disaster declarations is “wonderful news,” said state Rep. Mike Hanna, whose 76th District includes much of eastern Centre County. “Our region endured devastating damages, and many do not know where to turn, so every bit of assistance helps. It is my hope that between the SBA program and FEMA aid, residents will be able to get back on their feet.”

The major disaster declaration through FEMA will provide federal funding to local, county and state governments, as well as certain eligible non-profits in those counties through the Public Assistance program. The funds will reimburse costs associated with the response to and recovery from the flooding. Eligible expenses include but are not limited to, costs associated with paying overtime, repairs to damaged infrastructure, equipment rentals, materials, search and rescue operations, and opening and operating shelters. That data was then relayed to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, which tracked and totaled the costs to present to the Governor.

The overall estimated total costs associated with the major disaster declaration request are $33.2 million, which exceeds the commonwealth’s federally-established threshold of $18.1 million. It is important to note that total costs may fluctuate as applications for assistance are reviewed at both the state and federal levels. It is not known when the President will decide to grant or deny disaster assistance.

If Wolf’s request is approved, applicants can be reimbursed up to 75 percent of the costs incurred on eligible expenses.

The SBA declaration would provide low-interest loans to homeowners, renters and businesses with uninsured losses of 40 percent or more of their estimated fair market value. The SBA criteria of at least 25 potential applicants that sustained such losses was met in Lycoming and Centre counties.

Gov. Wolf signed a state proclamation of disaster emergency, which is required to request federal aid, on Wednesday.