Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday requested President Barack Obama to declare a major disaster in Pennsylvania, in order to provide financial reimbursement to municipalities in 31 counties for costs associated with the historic snowstorm that impacted the state January 22-23.
“Our numbers so far show that municipal, county and state agencies spent more than $55 million to respond to this storm,” said Gov. Wolf. “In many places, it wiped out an entire year’s budget for snow response and removal, and winter isn’t over yet.”
The Governor’s letter represents an initial request for federal assistance, and the Commonwealth will be able to request assistance for additional counties if data shows they meet the federal snow criteria.
In order to qualify for federal public assistance, counties must meet specific federal criteria:
-- Record or near-record snowfall event must occur within the county;
-- Costs to the county and municipalities for snow removal operations during a continuous 48-hour period and any other costs for emergency protective measures must exceed the county per capita threshold of $3.56; and
-- Total costs of all counties meeting both criteria must exceed the state threshold of $17.9 million.
In the weeks since the storm, municipal and county applicants have complied data on costs associated with storm response. Eligible expenses include, but are not limited to, costs associated with paying overtime, 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.
If the Governor’s request is approved, applicants can be reimbursed up to 75 percent of the costs incurred on eligible expenses.
The counties that met both record or near record snowfall totals and county costs are: Adams, Bedford, Berks, Blair, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Fayette, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Mifflin, Montgomery, Northampton, Perry, Philadelphia, Schuylkill, Somerset, Snyder, Westmoreland, and York.
The Governor’s request also includes the following counties that met their record or near record snowfall totals, but have not yet met their county costs: Cambria, Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, and Union.
PEMA staff continues to gather data from those counties in an effort to provide them financial assistance should the Governor’s request be approved by the federal government.
The overall estimated total costs that are associated with this request are $55,468,967, which exceeds the state public assistance threshold of $17,910,354.
It is important to note that total costs may fluctuate slightly as applications for assistance are reviewed at both the state and federal levels.It is not known when the President will make a decision to grant or deny disaster assistance.