After flash floods, Wolf calls on feds to lower thresholds for assistance | Friday Morning Coffee
“Significant gaps remain when socially vulnerable populations are unable to qualify for loans when these localized events do not meet federal damage assessment thresholds,” Gov. Tom Wolf told federal emergency management officials in a Thursday letter
Flooding in Bucks County on 7/12/21 (Photo via LevittownNow.com, reproduced by permission).
Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
With parts of Pennsylvania getting hit hard by flash floods this summer, Gov. Tom Wolf has asked the federal government to lower its aid thresholds so that it’s easier to send assistance to these stricken communities.
In a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency that his office made public Thursday, Wolf noted that “Flooding is one of the most significant and recurrent hazards in the commonwealth. In 2019 alone, over 5,200 Pennsylvania homes were damaged from flooding events; however, not one incident rose to the federal threshold level needed to apply for Individual Assistance.
While U.S. Small Business Administration loans “offer some assistance, and my administration is working diligently to support recovery efforts … significant gaps remain when socially vulnerable populations are unable to qualify for loans when these localized events do not meet federal damage assessment thresholds,” Wolf argued.
In his letter, Wolf said it’s no longer true that people who live in or near flood plains are exempt from the risk of flooding, pointing out that, since 1993, 96 percent of the flood incidents in the state that were reported to the National Weather Service occurred outside of traditional flood plains.
“Despite this, many homeowners and renters do not believe flood insurance is needed, many are not required to purchase it by their lender or landlord, or, in the instance of our most socially vulnerable communities, many are unable to afford the additional expense,” Wolf wrote.
Parts of Bucks County were hit by historic flooding last month, forcing some area residents to be evacuated from their homes, LevittownNow.com, a publishing partner of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, reported at the time.
In a statement, Wolf said that these “localized short-duration, high-intensity precipitation events result in significant damages and impacts to human lives, but they rarely meet the thresholds needed for [individual] federal disaster aid.”
According to LevittownNow.com, the National Weather Service said 6 to 10 inches of rain fell between Northeast Philadelphia and Florence, N.J. over the period of three to four hours during that flash flood last month. The storm is estimated to have been a 100-year flood, LevittownNow.com reported.
Wolf toured the Bucks County communities affected by this flooding. In addition to Bucks County, parts of Philadelphia, and Tioga County, in northern Pennsylvania, also were impacted by the heavy rains, the administration said.
“Based on the results of a damage survey, the damage in these counties, as well as the neighboring counties of Bradford, Delaware, Lehigh, Lycoming, Montgomery, Northampton and Potter, met the criteria for financial aid through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA),” the administration said in its statement. Wolf requested, and successfully obtained a SBA emergency declaration to benefit the affected citizens, the administration said.
“While my administration is working diligently to support recovery efforts, substantial gaps remain when these localized events do not meet federal damage assessment thresholds,” Wolf said. “As a result, victims are left to pick up the pieces with little to no financial support. I’m requesting that FEMA adjust the thresholds to better reflect current weather trends that, as a result of climate change, are causing these intense rainstorms and impacting communities, including those that typically do not experience flooding.”
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