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

August 27, 2021 7:15 am

Flooding in Bucks County on 7/12/21 (Photo via, 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.

Flooding in Bucks County on 7/12/21 (Photo via, reproduced by permission).

Parts of Bucks County were hit by historic flooding last month, forcing some area residents to be evacuated from their homes,, a publishing partner of the Pennsylvania Capital-Starreported 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, 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, 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.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
In the first of a series of interviews with the 2022 Republican gubernatorial hopefuls, Stephen Caruso sits down to chat with Pittsburgh attorney Jason Richey about taxes, voting rights, and … yes … hyperloop!

Despite a request from Gov. Tom Wolf, GOP lawmakers say they won’t cut their summer vacation short to vote on legislation mandating masks in K-12 schoolsMarley Parish reports.

Hours before the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the federal moratorium, a band of state Senate Democrats proposed an alternative to immediate evictions and foreclosuresMarley Parish also reports.

Democratic pols and activists gathered on the banks of the Susquehanna River on Thursday to call on Congress to pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal, I report.

Stephen Caruso also explains how the wrong font and misplaced staples on a legal brief filed by lawyers for Pennsylvania’s teachers’ pension fund prompted an unusual rebuke from a state court judge.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Opinion regular Lloyd Sheaffer has a message for Mask Refusers: It’s a small sacrifice to make for a larger public good. And columnist Michael Coard, of our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune, goes over five things you might not know about chattel slavery as our national shame turns 402.

En la Estrella-Capital: La Comisión de Asuntos Latinos celebra los éxitos de la COVID-19 y traza un camino a seguirCassie Miller informa. Y la tasa de desempleo de Pa. cayó en julio, aún por encima de la tasa nacional, Yo informo.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C. (Flickr Commons)

In a ruling on Thursday night, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction ban, putting thousands of people at risk of losing their homes. WHYY-FM has the details.

If you’re wondering how the enforcement of Philly’s mask mandate is going, you’re not the only one. The city isn’t keeping track, the Inquirer reports.

Geisinger Health System in northeastern Pennsylvania has mandated vaccinations for all its employees, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet has been fined for ethics violations, the Post-Gazette reports.

Allentown’s superintendent’s search, meanwhile, is down to its final, three candidates, the Morning Call reports. They’ll each post YouTube videos explaining their plans for their first 90 days on the job.

State Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, talks to PennLive about his planned ‘forensic investigation’ of Pennsylvania’s 2020 election results (paywall).

WITF-FM reviews the history of the GOP’s efforts to push for a review of a Pennsylvania election whose results have been certified and are not in doubt.

LancasterOnline has local reaction to the terrorist attack in Afghanistan on Thursday that claimed the lives of a dozen American servicemembers, and scores more Afghan civilians.

City & State Pa. runs down this week’s winners and losers in state politics.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day (Who’s A Good Boy? Edition):


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What Goes On
1:30 p.m., Hill Top Academy, Mechanicsburg, Pa.: The Department of Agriculture holds a newser touting “Farm to School” grants and supporting agricultural education.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
Helping you plan ahead, state Sen. John Yudichak, I-Luzerne, holds a picnic this Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Plains Polish American Veterans Pavilion in Wilkes-Barre. Admission is $25-a-head.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept
Best wishes go out this morning to Harrisburg PR guy Jack Sherzer, who celebrates today. Congrats go out in advance to FOX-43 Capitol Reporter Chelsea Koerbler, and the tireless Ricardo Lopez, of our sibling site, the the Minnesota Reformer, both of whom celebrate on Saturday. Congratulations, friends. Enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation
The last, full record by the original lineup of R.E.M., ‘New Adventures in Hi-Fi,’ improbably celebrates its 25th anniversary this summer. And in recognition, the Athens, Ga. legends have given it the full reissue treatment. Underrated in its time, the record has only grown in stature in the intervening quarter-century since its release. Here’s one of my favorite tracks from that LP, it’s the charming ‘Electrolite.’

Friday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
It’s Friday – and that means another weekend of Premier League action is upon us. It also means, as ever, that the Guardian runs down its 10 things to watch for over the next 48 hours. Notably, will Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who’s back from COVID, be the key to Arsenal not getting totally thrashed by Manchester City on Saturday?

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.