Pa. governor calls for more flooding help in wake of heavy rains

A flood warning sign in front of a flooded road.

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WKBN) – As Pennsylvania experiences more localized short-duration high-intensity rainstorms that cause devastating flash flooding, Governor Tom Wolf Thursday sent a letter urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to lower the federal damage assessment thresholds required for these events to qualify for federal aid. 

“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 federal disaster aid in the form of Individual Assistance,” Gov. Wolf said.

Recently, homes and businesses in eastern Pennsylvania sustained significant flood damage as a result of flash flooding on July 12.

Based on the results of a damage survey, the damage met the criteria for financial aid through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), however, the federal criteria for Individual Assistance aid was not met, even though the damages devastated numerous homeowners and renters. 

In order to receive a federal disaster declaration for Individual Assistance, which provides money directly to homeowners and renters, the commonwealth would need to reach certain thresholds for the number of homes that fit into the classification of “major damage” or “destroyed” along with other considerations that are specified by FEMA. 

“Evaluating impacts solely on a micro level at the municipal or county level alone, rather than toward a whole state assessment, would provide a more realistic assessment of the impacts to that community,” Gov. Wolf said. “Doing so will provide much needed direct assistance to the most vulnerable who most often are ineligible for other disaster assistance.” 

Flooding, which is one of the most significant hazards in the commonwealth, is becoming more common due to the increased frequency of short-duration high-intensity rainstorms.  

In 2019 alone, more than 5,200 Pennsylvania homes were damaged from flooding events; however, not one incident met the federal thresholds required for individual assistance. 

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