Thursday, September 28, 2023

FEMA Denies Gov. Shapiro’s Request For Federal Disaster Declaration For July 9 Flooding In Berks County; SBA Approves Disaster Relief Loans

On September 26, the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied Gov. Shapiro’s request for a Federal Disaster Declaration for the flooding that occurred on July 9, 2023 in Berks County.

            The July storms caused seven deaths and property damage in Berks, Bucks and Northampton counties.  Read more here.

On September 29, however, the US Small Business Administration did approve a Disaster Declaration in Berks County making low-interest disaster relief loans available.  Read more here.

FEMA Denial

            The denial letter said in part, “Based on our review of all of the information available, it has been determined that the damage from this event was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the Commonwealth, affected local governments and voluntary agencies.

            “Accordingly, we have determined that supplemental federal assistance is not necessary.  Therefore, I must inform you that your request for a major disaster declaration is denied.”

The letter did mention-- “FEMA’s Region III Regional Administrator will communicate any additional resources that may be available through Other Federal Agencies and/or volunteer organizations to address unmet needs for survivor assistance.”

Pennsylvania has 30 days to appeal this FEMA determination.

            Click Here for a copy of the letter.

Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) has issued the following statement in response to FEMA's denial-- “While we realized this outcome was a possibility, that does not make the news of this decision by FEMA any easier to swallow. Despite this setback, I will continue searching for government assistance for the Antietam School District and the many Berks County residents hit hard by flooding in July. 

"In anticipation of this decision, I contacted the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency last week and formally requested that funding allocated to a pilot individual disaster relief program be released in Berks County to affected residents. The clock continues to tick, and people are still without the assistance they need.”

Sen. Schwank added the lengthy wait for the federal government to render a decision on the Major Disaster Declaration has been extremely frustrating.

“People want answers, and they want to know what is being done to help them recover from this severe weather event,” Sen. Schwank said. “I empathize with those folks. Given the devastation we saw in some areas of Berks County, it’s hard to imagine that we don’t meet the federal threshold for assistance. However, this is the hand we’ve been dealt, and we need to pivot quickly given the circumstances.”

In addition to requesting PEMA release the pilot individual relief program funding, Schwank is calling on federal representatives to search for other funding sources to aid Berks County residents.

“We can’t leave a single stone unturned at any level of government,” Schwank said. “The problems we are facing don’t disappear just because we got some bad news. We need to continue work to provide people with the relief they need.”


-- MCall: FEMA Denies Emergency Declaration Request For July Storm That Devastated Berks County; Request For Northampton County Storm Still Pending

-- Reading Eagle: Berks County Gets US Small Business Administration Emergency Declaration Related To Flood Damages After Disaster Declaration Denied By FEMA

-- Scranton Times: Recovery, Repairs From Flash Flooding Continue In Scranton, Abingtons

-- PEMA Partnered With Lackawanna County To Host Multi-Agency Resource Center For Residents Impacted By Flooding [Sept. 20 to 23]

-- WNEP: Residents In Luzerne County Frustrated Over Major Flooding Issues

-- PennDOT Reminds Motorists NEVER To Drive Through Flooded Roadways

Related Articles:

-- Bipartisan Group Of PA Members Of Congress Urge President To Declare Federal Disaster After Severe Flooding, Storms Caused 7 Deaths, Property Damage In Berks, Bucks, Northampton Counties  [PaEN 8.17.23]

-- Multi-Agency Resource Center Opens For Berks County Residents Impacted By Flooding  [PaEN 9.13.23]

-- House Environmental Committee Holds Hearing On Bill To Protect Stream Buffers Oct. 2   [PaEN]

[Posted: September 28, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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